Nobel prize. French Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer Doudna only waited 8 years to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020, since their item published in 2012 in Science, which marked the start of a genetic revolution called “Crispr Cas9“.” Data-reactid = “14”> SCIENCE – It is not uncommon for a scientist behind a fundamental discovery to have to wait decades before being awarded the Nobel prize. French Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer Doudna only waited 8 years to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020, since their item published in 2012 in Science, which marked the start of a genetic revolution called “Crispr Cas9”.

This period could even have been shorter, as the discovery of these “DNA scissors” capable of modifying easily and inexpensively the genome of any living being is hailed in the scientific world. In eight years, the work and experiences using Crispr Cas9 or its derivatives are gigantic and go in all directions.

lung cancer, genetically modified pigs to become organ donors, fight against & nbsp;cat hair allergy, cows resistant to tuberculosis, improvement & nbsp;fruits and vegetables& nbsp; of all kinds, including creation of chili tomatoes… The uses of Crispr Cas9 to transform the living genome are far too numerous to be listed. “Data-reactid =” 16 “> Treatment of lung cancer, genetically modified pigs to become organ donors, fight against cat hair allergy, cows resistant to tuberculosis, improvement fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including creation of chili tomatoes… The uses of Crispr Cas9 to transform the living genome are far too numerous to list.

genetic vaccine”From those DNA scissors to fight the coronavirus. The opportunities are such that this genetic revolution necessarily imposes ethical questions: it becomes in the absolute possible to eradicate mosquitoes, but is it a good thing? And the resurrection of mammoths& nbsp; (nothing is won however)? And why not genetically modified human embryos? “Data-reactid =” 17 “> Researchers are even trying to create a“genetic vaccine”From those DNA scissors to fight the coronavirus. The opportunities are such that this genetic revolution necessarily imposes ethical questions: it becomes in the absolute possible to eradicate mosquitoes, but is it a good thing? And the resurrection of mammoths (nothing is won however)? How about genetically modified human embryos?

sentenced to prison in 2019 for trying to make resistant babies to the AIDS virus. And even without the ethical debate, a scientific debate is required in the face of a technology which is certainly revolutionary, but still far from perfect. “Data-reactid =” 18 “> These questions are far from being theoretical. place for all these examples. A Chinese researcher has also been sentenced to prison in 2019 for trying to make resistant babies to the AIDS virus. And even without the ethical debate, a scientific debate arises in the face of a technology that is certainly revolutionary, but still far from perfect.

Vaccine for bacteria

CRISPR is the acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Behind this barbaric name, a property first observed in 1987. In some bacteria, DNA was made up of base sequences (remember your biology lessons, the famous ATCGs, see below) repeating like a palindrome. And between these, the series of letters was incomprehensible.

The Crispr Cas9 scissors will cut the DNA at a specific location, between two clearly identified bases. (Photo: )

HuffPost Christine Pourcel, researcher at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the Cell, who participated in the discovery of this phenomenon. “If you want, it’s a kind of vaccination, it looks like an immune system.” “Data-reactid =” 33 “> It was not until 2005 that researchers succeeded in unraveling the mystery of this bacterium. The sequences in question are actually those of viruses, bacteriophages, which attack only bacteria. “This allows the DNA of a virus to be stored in memory, in order to fight it if it tries a new one. times to attack the bacteria ”, explained in 2016 to HuffPost Christine Pourcel, researcher at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the Cell, who participated in the discovery of this phenomenon. “If you will, it’s a kind of vaccination, it looks like an immune system.”

Once the virus is detected, the bacteria will create an RNA (like DNA, but with a single “branch”) corresponding to the intruder. An enzyme (the famous Cas9) will then integrate this molecule and attach itself to the virus to cut its DNA, resulting in its death.

Crispr Cas9, awesome scissors (my)

“It’s a kind of reprogrammable DNA scissors,” says the researcher. “The CRISPR-Cas9 method is so simple that it now takes a few days to program the enzyme to cut a particular piece of DNA, whereas it used to take months,” enthuses David Bikard.

The method is so simple that you can make several cuts at the same time, using several enzymes, each programmed to target a specific part of the DNA. So simple, even, “that it is possible to have this work carried out by master’s students in a few weeks”, adds the researcher. And who says simple says cheap. Very cheap.

With this new technique, DNA modification has become “mainstream” in the world of genetics. “This is the most important discovery in the field since the 1980s and 1990s,” said David Bikard. What to understand the decision of the Nobel committee.

Babies and mammoths

21st Century Doctor Frankenstein, want to use mammoth DNA to modify elephants and create a hybrid suitable for the tundra? What about the use of these techniques in food, subject already very controversial with the aging technology of GMOs? “data-reactid =” 45 “> The prospects are gigantic, but so are the risks. From the early years, debates took place over the use of Crispr Cas9. Is it a good thing that a geneticist, so of 21st Century Doctor Frankenstein, want to use mammoth DNA to modify elephants and create a hybrid suitable for the tundra? What about the use of these techniques in food, subject already very controversial with the aging technology of GMOs?

The debate was taken to a climax in 2018, when a Chinese team announced the birth of babies whose embryos were genetically modified. Objective: to give them a mutation allowing them to resist HIV. We can see the many possible drifts, the craziest obviously being that of eugenics. If the idea of ​​eradicating an inherited disease through genetic modification may sound appealing, how can you be sure that this technology is not used to seek to select “good” genes, to obtain the child you want?

tests on human embryos have been authorized in China, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. This work was very supervised and carried out on embryos which were destroyed. But we can see that the debate will not disappear. “Data-reactid =” 47 “> The researcher who led this work in China, He Jiankui, was sentenced to prison because he would have acted without any authorization. , he’s clearly not the only one thinking about it. tests on human embryos have been authorized in China, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. This work was very supervised and carried out on embryos which were destroyed. But we can see that the debate will not disappear.

Imperfect scissors

Apart from the ethical debate, there is also another problem with wanting to go too fast and all over the place with Crispr Cas9: DNA scissors are far from perfect.

studies& nbsp; have shown that the transformation of one gene could also lead to changes in other nearby genes, even distant ones, in DNA strands. But is it serious and easily corrected? The & nbsp;dangerousness& nbsp; of Crispr-Cas9 made & nbsp;debate& nbsp; in scientists. “data-reactid =” 50 “> Indeed, if Crispr-Cas9 is incredibly more precise than the old methods (like GMOs), there are still many unknowns. studies have shown that the transformation of one gene could also lead to the modification of other nearby genes, even distant ones, in the strands of DNA. But is it serious and easily corrected? The dangerousness of Crispr-Cas9 does debate among scientists.

much more precise DNA pencils. Even a kind Genetics Word. We are still very, very far from it. “Data-reactid =” 51 “> Many believe that it will be possible, in the long term, to manage the side effects of Crispr Cas 9 and to better understand the interaction of genes. that research continues to invent derivatives of these genetic scissors, for example much more precise DNA pencils. Even a kind Genetics Word. We are still very, very far from it.

And even if it were possible, even if we did manage to have a “perfect” modification, we still have to understand its real impact. The genetics, in reality, are still very fuzzy. It is therefore quite logical to think that modifying the genetic code of an embryo is far too risky. Because there is also the risk of hereditary transmission. If the person is born, grows and reproduces, they will pass these changes on to their offspring. What makes you dizzy when you wonder if a small modification could not lead, following the genetic mixing of procreation, completely unforeseeable consequences.

a call in Nature& nbsp; for a moratorium on the genetic modification of human embryos. And Emmanuelle Charpentier was one of the signatories. “Data-reactid =” 53 “> Moreover, in March 2019, around fifteen researchers signed a call in Nature for a moratorium on the genetic modification of human embryos. And Emmanuelle Charpentier was one of the signatories.

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The HuffPost and has been updated.“data-reactid =” 59 “>This article originally appeared on The HuffPost and has been updated.