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Who were the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020?

Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the year 2020, for their major contributions in reducing the number of components in the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

 

An outline of their discovery

 

CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) can be used, by removing, adding, or altering particular DNA sequences and may edit specific parts of the genome. A four-part mechanism called the Cas9 endonuclease consists of two small molecules. By combining these two RNA molecules into a "single-guide RNA," by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the Cas9 endonuclease was redesigned into a more manageable two-component system that could locate and cut the DNA target defined by the guide RNA- CRISPR/Cas9 ‘genetic scissors’. It can silence or activate genes as well as add or remove others. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 2020 in recognition of this contribution.

 

Some advantages of this technology:

  • quick

  • easy

  • adaptable

  • innovative, unique

 

Disadvantages:

  • distribution challenges

  • extremely conservative ethical issues

  • some off-target effects

  • some negative outcomes

 

Significance of this discovery

 

This discovery is important in preventing disease and is such a revolutionary tool. It does not just help humans but also animals, plants and even bacteria. CRISPR has already been applied to various disorders, such as cancer and infectious diseases.

 

By making it possible to make changes to the target cells' genomes, which were previously challenging to do, the procedure offers a new perspective on biological treatment and demonstrates how important this tool is. But since this technology is still recent, scientists must develop straightforward processes and techniques to monitor and test its progress, performance, and outcomes.

Jennifer Doudna

 

Hailing from Washington DC., USA, Jennifer Doudna was born in 1964. As a professor of biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology, Doudna’s main research focus is on RNA, and its variety of structures and functions. It was her research lab’s work that led to the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 as an extraordinarily powerful tool to cut and edit the human genome to treat disease. This remarkable discovery was a decade ago in 2012, when Doudna and others were able to copy a bacterial system to create molecular scissors, in order to edit the genetic code. In October 2020, at the time of her being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Doudna was affiliated to the University of Berkeley, in California.

 

Emmanuelle Charpentier

 

Coming from a French background, Emmanuelle Charpentier is a professor and researcher in microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry. Born in 1968, researcher Charpentier has made tremendous progress in her respective field. From being the director at the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in 2015, to founding her own independent research institute- the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in the year 2018, and of course being jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020; it is true that Charpentier has added new, valuable research in her work and has come a long way in her career.

Why the CRISPR/ Cas9 system fascinates us

 

We find CRISPR fascinating because as biological science students, we know this tool is vital for genetics and can help cure present incurable diseases such as sickle cell disease as well as cancer, showing what a revolutionary tool this is. It does not just help humans but also animals, plants and even bacteria showing how broad biology is and different fields can be linked to one another. Researchers are constantly coming up with new ways to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to solve problems in the real world, such as epigenome editing, new cell and gene therapies, infectious disease research, and the conservation of endangered species. The advantages of this technology are that it is quick, easy and adaptable, but its disadvantages include distribution challenges, extremely conservative ethical issues, some off-target effects, and some negative outcomes. By making it possible to make changes to the target cells' genomes, which were previously challenging to do, the procedure offers a new perspective on biological treatment and demonstrates how important this tool is.

 

 

Written by Jeevana Thavarajah, and Manisha Halkhoree

Scientia News founder and managing director 

Related articles: Female Nobel prize winners in Chemistry and in Physics

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