The New Age of Gene Editing Query Letter

Muznah Khan
495 Paul Hardin Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

February 4, 2016

Dear Ms. Boyd,

As the World Health Organization has recently proclaimed, the current outbreak of the Zika virus is a major public health emergency with potential repercussions around the world. This troubling virus is known to be transmitted from person to person through the bite of a mosquito. What if there was a way to stop this outbreak by genetically removing a mosquito’s ability to carry the virus, thereby ending its ability to transfer it to humans? This solution would have been improbable a few years ago, but CRISPR has made it a viable option. As a young researcher investigating this possibility, I humbly ask you to consider publishing my research on this topic in your esteemed journal.

I am an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, currently studying Exercise and Sports Science. I have spent several years with a team of experienced researchers investigating the potential applications of the CRISPR genome-editing tool for mitigation of mosquito-borne infectious diseases. Given that your journal focuses on the most recent advancements in practical and promising applications of laboratory and medical technology, I believe the topic of my article “From Cutting Bacteria to Helping Humans Fight Infectious Diseases: The New Age of Gene Editing” is quite relevant.

Genome editing, the process of editing or changing an organism’s DNA, has been around for many decades now. Various gene-editing methods have been successfully utilized to modify genes in animals and agricultural crops. However, no past method compares to the efficiency of the CRISPR/Cas9 system. CRISPR stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic”.

Researchers studying bacteria observed their unique ability to fight viral infections using an immune system called CRISPR. From their observations, the researchers realized they could use the CRISPR system as a tool for genetic engineering. In most organisms, a break in DNA is quickly fixed by the organism’s cells. To researchers, this ability of cells means they can remove segments of DNA from an organism and insert new genes in their place during the mending process. Furthermore, unlike previous methods, CRISPR does not require a series of steps that, if performed incorrectly, could be quite harmful. CRISPR is also highly cost effective compared to previous technologies, making it an even bigger hit in the world of genetic engineering

The science world is very excited about the real-world applications of this new gene editing technology. In one of a number of successful projects, researchers have been able to use CRISPR to remove a segment of mosquito DNA and replace it with a DNA sample engineered synthetically in the lab, thereby creating mosquitos that are resistant to the malaria-causing parasite. This is a significant step towards defeating a devastating disease and it is just the beginning to what CRISPR is capable of in the war against mosquito-borne diseases that kill millions of people every year.

The CRISPR technology is still in the early stages of development; however, researchers all around the world have recognized it as the next big advancement in the field of genome editing. In my article, I will explain the process of using CRISPR to advance the fight against Zika and other mosquito-borne disease. I will further analyze the effectiveness of CRISPR compared to past gene editing methods and discuss what researchers believe to be the future of CRISPR. Furthermore, as with all genetic engineering techniques, there are many ethical concerns floating around and this article will introduce key issues and propose practical solutions for some of these concerns.

Thank you for considering my article for your journal.

Muznah Khan


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