What do Jurassic Park, a high school student named Feng Zhang and a step forward in the fight against AIDS have in common? They all helped lead to the creation of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method.
Related Post: HIV/AIDS-Related Opportunistic Illnesses: An Outlook
Feng Zhang is the youngest member of the main faculty members at the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T. When he was young, his parents encouraged his strong interest in science and that led him to classes outside his required ones. He saw Jurassic Park when still in junior high and that directed his scientific efforts toward gene manipulation. In high school, he discovered a gene within the human body that has the “job” of finding unwelcome substances, like germs, and eliminating them. He was placed third in a science contest with this project and used the winnings to pay towards an education in science.
Fast-forward nearly fifteen years and he and his co-scientists have worked out a way to make an artificial replica of this “fighter” sequence in DNA. At this point, cells that have been infected with the HIV virus have shown promise of being completely eradicated with the research that is being done.
How it Works
The created DNA “seeker” is joined with the CRISPER sequence of DNA that eradicates diseased cells. Joined together, the seeker looks for this malformation and the fighter sequence then eradicates. This continues until all the “bad” cells are removed. So far, results have been promising in regards to the elimination of the AIDS virus, without any indication of it returning.
More research has to be conducted, but the scientists hold high hopes that they have found something that may one day eliminate not only AIDS but also genetic abnormalities that cause life-long issues. This process merits following closely with anticipation.