If you’ve ever had a cold or the flu, you would know how unpleasant it is to get infected with a virus. How many of you know that bacteria can get sick just like us? And most of all, we humans don’t affect bacteria, it is the viruses that affect the bacteria. A virus is a tiny piece of DNA or RNA encased in a protein shell. A virus is really just a set of instructions for creating other viruses. When a virus enters a human cell it infects people or if the virus infects bacteria, it reprograms the cell and converts it into a viral factory. It turns out that the vast majority of viruses infect bacteria rather than humans.

Bacterias are so small that we can’t even see them with our naked eyes. But what will happen if those bacteria get affected? How many of you know that bacteria have the ability to protect themselves against infections with their own immune systems. Scientists have discovered some bacterial immune systems as a powerful tool to edit the DNA of all living organisms. 

Scientists have discovered some new bacterial immune systems. We have been able to re-purpose these systems for entirely new uses. One such immune system, called CRISPR, can potentially allow us to rewrite DNA any way we want, in any living thing. Now scientists are using bacterial immune systems as powerful tools to precisely edit the DNA of all sorts of living things.

Recently, scientists have discovered a way to modify this ability to fight viruses in human cells.

CRISPR is commonly thought of as a laboratory tool for editing DNA to correct genetic flaws or improve particular characteristics, however, the term “CRISPR(Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,)” refers to a group of DNA sequences in bacterial genomes that were left behind from earlier bacteriophage infections. When the bacteria come into contact with these pathogens again, enzymes known as CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins identify and bind to these viral sequences, destroying them.

What Does CRISPR Have to Do with Viral Infections?

In a recent study, some scientists did research on CRISPR-related enzymes to target three different single-stranded RNA viruses in human embryonic kidney cells (as well as human lung cancer cells and dog kidney cells) grown in vitro and chop them up, rendering them largely unable to infect additional cells. If further research demonstrates that this process works in living animals, it could eventually lead to new antiviral therapies for diseases like Ebola and Zika in humans.

It is critical that we utilize CRISPR for the right purposes. A scientist has revealed using CRISPR to alter the DNA of two infants. He was attempting to make them immune to certain diseases. The worldwide scientific community was highly alarmed when they learned this. Many scientists were concerned about the scientific procedures that were being used. Others wondered whether the researcher had done ethically. Many scientists believed that the benefits outweighed the risks. Other treatments can readily avoid the illnesses that the changes would have avoided.