Biotechnology and Medicinal Biochemistry

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Biotechnology and Medicinal Biochemistry

Topic: Biotechnology and medicinal biochemistry

Field: Life Science

Although it may seem like biotechnology is a faraway technology for the major part of the public. It has become a not so distant technology with a sharp rise in development over the past few years. Humans have been using concepts of biotechnology since 7000 BC when the Chinese discovered fermentation through beer making.1 And recently we have started to strongly depend on biotechnology. It is used to increase crop yield of food.2 This is done by directly applying biotechnology to the foods, increasing their resistance to insects, tolerance to herbicides and resistance to pathogens like viruses.3 These lead to less death of plants due to insects, herbicides and diseases. Biotechnology can also help clean oil spills through genetically modified organisms such has oil decomposing bacteria.4 This can help minimize deaths of aquatic organisms and damage to the aquatic ecosystem.

In this report, I am going to focus on a new development in the biotechnology field, CRISPR. I will give an introduction on what it is, talk about the development of CRISPR, current progress, obstacles and the implications it has on the future. I will also compare CRISPR to tradition Chinese medicinal therapy while combatting prevalent diseases such as malaria.

The timeline for biotechnology can be said to have started in 7000 BC but modern research can be said to have started in 1663 with the first recorded description of living cells by Robert Hooke which he published in his book, Micrographia.5 However, early development was very slow due to lack of technological advancements. The word “biotechnology” was first coined by Karoly Ereky in 1919.6 Later, in 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick describe the structure of DNA using experimental data collected by Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins which they received a Nobel prize for.7 This is one of the biggest step forwards as scientist later discover the importance of thorough knowledge of the DNA in gene editing which is a major part of biotechnology. This lead to a boom in biotechnological research, inspiring one of the greatest research, CRISPR. CRISPR is short for clustered regularly repeating short palindromic repeats. It is said to have been coined by Francisco Mojica in 1993 while he was studying the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.8 The start can be said to have been 2005 when he reported that the sequences matched certain parts of the genome of bacteriophage. This then led him to hypothesis first and then discover CRISPR is an adaptive immune system. Also, around the same time, another group that had been working on CRISPR showed similar results.9 It was found that CRIPSR sequence together with the newly discovered Cas9 genes imparted phage resistance in the bacteria.10 In 2013, the CRISPR/Cas9 combination system had been harnessed to edit targeted genes in mouse cells.11 By 2015, CRISPER/Cas9 was used to edit tri-chromosomal genes in pre-implantation embryos.12 Although unsuccessful at the time this gives hope of CRISPER/Cas9 to one day treat down syndrome in babies by altering their genes. In 2016, approval was given for the first human trial of the technology to be used as cancer treatment therapy. CRIPSER/Cas9 will be used to edit the patient’s own T-cells to target the cancer cells and kill them.13