IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 13th Oct 2020
It is never too late to be what you might have been.– George Eliot
EDITORIAL HUNT #186 :“Gene Editing and Chemistry Nobel 2020 | UPSC”
Gene Editing and Chemistry Nobel 2020 | UPSC
Binay Panda is a Professor of Biotechnology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Gene editing, the good first and then the worries
With the Chemistry Nobel thrusting CRISPR-Cas9 into the limelight, India needs guidelines for gene-editing research
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Science and Technology : Gene Editing
Nobel Awards have always landed up into controversies.This year is not different with Chemistry Nobel Prize. Discuss -(GS 1,3)
- The discovery
- World in Shock with gene editing
- Situation in India
- DEVELOPMENT : Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist , and Jennifer A. Doudna, a biochemist , U.S. shared the honour “for the development of a method for genome editing”.
DISCOVERY, LIKELY OMISSIONS
- CRISPR CAS9 TECHNOLOGY : The two scientists have pioneered the use of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) – Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) system as a gene-editing tool.
- IMPACT : In a short period of eight years since its discovery, the method has already made a significant impact in biology, medicine, and agriculture.
- PCR TECHNOLOGY : The only other work with such a quick and revolutionary impact, is PCR (polymerase chain reaction) invented by Kary Mullis in 1983.
- TRACING BACK : The discovery of CRISPR can be traced back to 1987.
- BACKGROUND OF CAS9 : This was when a group of Japanese researchers observed an unusual homologous DNA sequence bearing direct repeats with spacing in a eubacterial gene.
- GENE-EDITING TOOL : A notable discovery on the use of CRISPR as a gene-editing tool was by a Lithuanian biochemist, Virginijus Šikšnys, in 2012.
- CAS9 IN A TEST TUBE : Šikšnys showed that Cas9 could cut purified DNA in a test tube, the same discovery for which both Charpentier and Doudna were given the credit.
- NOTABLE CONTRIBUTIONS : Other notable early contributors to the field that many believe deserve mention are Feng Zhang of Broad Institute of MIT-Harvard and George Church of Harvard.
WHEN THE WORLD WAS SHOCKED
- STILL A LONG WAY : In India, there is a long way to go before realising the utility of gene editing for therapeutic applications.
- EXPERIMENTS : We cannot be complacent and wait for a rogue individual or entity to try it out in humans.
- WORLD IN SHOCK : The world was alarmed by such a mission in 2018 when Chinese scientist He Jiankui edited genes in human embryos using the CRISPR-Cas9 system that were subsequently implanted and resulted in the birth of twin girls.
- CLAIMS : He claimed this was ostensibly to prevent them from contracting HIV, and the incident became known as the case of the first gene-edited babies of the world.
- A GLOBAL OUTCRY : The World Health Organization formed a panel of gene-editing experts which said -a central registry of all human genome editing research was needed in order to create an open and transparent database .
SITUATION IN INDIA
- GUIDELINES : In India, several rules, guidelines, and policies backed by the “Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms.
- GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS : Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, regulates genetically modified organisms.
- GENE-EDITING AND HUMAN PARTICIPATION : The above Act and the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving human participants, 2017 , by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and the Biomedical and Health Research Regulation Bill implies regulation of the gene-editing process.
- UNDEFINED STRUCTURE : This is especially so in the usage of its language “modification, deletion or removal of parts of heritable material”. However, there is no explicit mention of the term gene editing.
It is time that India came up with a specific law to ban germline editing and put out guidelines for conducting gene-editing research giving rise to modified organisms.