Chemistry Nobel Prize 2020

October 31st, 2020 by Selina Rong

Jennifer Doudna and Emanuelle Charpentier win the chemistry nobel prize for discovering a genome editing tool. This tool can change the course for science. It adds advantages with medicines, crops, and much more!

Science is like an adventure. You go through many paths or “experiments”, and never know what will happen next. Recently, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering a genetic tool called the CRISPR/Cas9. Even they couldn’t even believe they discovered this tool that can have major potential in both humanity and science moving forward. Their work resulted in the discovery of a molecular mechanics of the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 immune system and reallocating it as a tool for genome editing in other cells by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA. Scientists and researchers can use these to change DNA of plant, animals,and mice-organisms at a higher level of precision.

Before this, it was so difficult to change the code of life because of the amount of time needed, and now, it could be altered in a couple weeks. While the two were focusing on the immune system of a Streptococcus bacterium, they found a molecular tool that could cut genetic material much more precisely. Researchers can study and modify genomes of plants and animal cells, and microbial with more precision and effectiveness that would have not been possible before. This technology has immense impacted discoveries in basic research. Researches also have developed crops that can withstand mold, which can lead to new and possibly more effective medicines.

The system of CRISPR/cas9 has an enzyme called Cas9 that cuts the two strands of DNA at a specific location in the genome and a piece of RNA, called gRNA that guides the enzyme to the right parts of the genome. Scientists can use DNA repair machinery to make changes on the genes. The main question revolving around their work is how they turned this system into a simple genome editing tool. To start off, the two studied the molecular machinery that is in the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 defense against invaders. During the time the virus attacks, bacteria that survive put a piece of viral DNA into the CRISPR array. If the virus attacks again, the bacteria turns the part of the CRISPR with viral DNA into RNA. So now there is a second RNA that guides the Cas9 to the DNA of the virus trying to invade. That’s how the CRISPR/Cas9 acts as scissors, by cutting the viral DNA and preventing the invader from attacking. So on to the point of how they turned this into a gene editing tool. They merged the two RNA into a single RNA, also called gRNA. Scientists can take the repair mechanism the cell has to introduce DNA changes by cutting or making a slice.

Science is so amazing because of the many things that can be discovered. It never ends because of nature’s complexity. CRISPR/Cas9 is of course an amazing discovery that can change the course of life for the future. However, I think with science expanding in information, the new discoveries will too. Using this new editing tool, it could possibly lead to something even bigger which is definitely exciting.