Gene Editing has numerous uses in our lives today, which include treatment of inherited conditions like heart diseases, viral infections, and the potential prevention of certain types of cancers. However, its use is not only limited to medicine and can be used in the agriculture industry as well, where the natural food sources may be enhanced in nutrition, size, and color and made more resistant against infections which maybe reduce its productivity. Numerous Gene editing tools have been tested for this purpose, but recently CRISPR has come out on top, with researchers testing its potential and beneficial properties through numerous trials and studies more than ever. CRISPR may allow not only the production of reduced gluten wheat, which may be consumed by those with sensitive stomachs, but also mushrooms that may not get brown they are cut, or the production of Soybeans which are low in Fats.
About the CRISPR System
The CRISPR system stands for clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, which is a sophisticated adaptive immune mechanism that is originally present in bacteria and certain archaea for purposes of defense and protection from bacteriophages and plasmid that might invade it. This system was initially discovered in 1987, where it was found to present in the Escherichia Coli and was later named by the CRISPR-associated Cas Genes by a Dutch Scientist. Since then, there have been multiple improvements in the system, which allows it to have multiple editing capabilities, which means that it is able to edit more than one gene simultaneously.
How Does CRISPR Gene Editing Work?
CRISPR Gene Editing system may be used for revolutionizing the foods through alterations that may be made at a precise location in the genome, in turn, improving the DNA native to the plant. The number of steps that may be included in CRISPR Gene Editing for Foods includes:
Gene editing starts with precise recognition of the gene which is responsible for a particular trait of the food that we aim to change. This is followed by careful designing of an RNA strand and an associated enzyme that is complementary to the target DNA containing the gene, which has to be altered. The RNA and the restriction enzyme such as CAS9 are then added to the cell. The guide sequence of the added RNA strand allows it to precisely target it’s the selected gene but pairing it to the original DNA sequence. Moreover, the Cas9 enzyme then cuts the DNA strand at the target points, where the alterations or mutations may be introduced into the genome. After added a particular trait or removing one, the cell is able to repair its DNA by its internal repair system. (1)
Examples of Gene-Edited Foods
CRISPR Modified Tomatoes
The CRISPR system was first introduced to tomatoes in 2014, where Argonaute 7 was removed, and it resulted in wiry phenotypes. These edited tomatoes were found to have leaflets that were without petioles, and the resulting leaves were also lacking laminae. However, many more studies have been published since then that have focused on the effect of gene editing in Tomatoes and how it may improve their quality, produce domestication and resist.
The CRISPR system has allowed significantly larger-sized tomatoes to be produced, as seen by interventions conducted by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where the CLAVATA-WISCHEL stem circuit was disrupted. Other than the size, the gene-editing of the tomatoes has also allowed alterations in their colors and textures, based on the consumer preference and increase of overall sales. Reports have shown that individuals living in different regions of the world may prefer a different type of Tomatoes, based on their color and texture. For Example, those living in Europe and America may prefer red-colored tomatoes, while those in the Asian regions are found to prefer pink-colored tomatoes. However, other than the popular red and pink colors, the experts have used gene editing to also cultivate yellow and purple tomatoes as well. (2)
CRISPR Modified Strawberries
The Wild strawberry known as Fragaria Vesca is an essential part of the Rosaceae family and has recently been used as a model for the cultivated strawberry. The wild strawberry has a shorter genome and half-life but ease of growth and ability to undergo facile transformation. Previous studies have shown that the CRISPR system allows high-efficiency mutations to be made in these wild strawberries, which may range from 49% to 75%. Studies have also shown that the hormone Auxin and its response time, which is responsible for stem elongation, may also be altered via gene editing systems like CRISPR. A reduction of the response time of Auxin may allow faster-growing seedlings, in turn, a faster turnout of the strawberries. (3)
Advantages of the Gene Editing For Food
As mentioned above, Gene-editing tools like CRISPR have a number of benefits for the Food industry and may be able to solve a number of food-related concerns for not only the individuals consuming it but for the growers as well.
- Gene Editing like CRISPR is an efficient and non-complicated technique for those who are trained for it and may allow big changes to be made into the genome of some of our favorite foods without undergoing extensive and advanced laboratory steps.
- Gene Editing may also allow countries to improve their agriculture and benefit the health of their people by producing fortified nutrition vegetables or drought-free corn without a need for purchasing expensive seeds from international multinational companies.
- While methodically crossing different generations of plants for altering its genotype may take years, CRISPR is a much faster alternative for getting the desired result in a much shorter time plan.
- An important property of CRISPR, which differentiates it from other techniques, is that the plants which may be edited by this technology are indistinguishable from the native plants, while others might show prominent and possibly unwanted changes.
- Uddin F, Rudin CM, Sen T. CRISPR Gene Therapy: Applications, Limitations, and Implications for the Future. Front Oncol. 2020;10:1387. Published 2020 Aug 7. doi:10.3389/fonc.2020.01387
- Wang T, Zhang H, Zhu H. CRISPR technology is revolutionizing the improvement of tomato and other fruit crops. Hortic Res. 2019;6:77. Published 2019 Jun 15. doi:10.1038/s41438-019-0159-x
- Zhou J, Wang G, Liu Z. Efficient genome editing of wild strawberry genes, vector development and validation. Plant Biotechnol J. 2018;16(11):1868-1877. doi:10.1111/pbi.12922