Scientists are developing a CRISPR pill that can fight superbugs. Can we modify bacteria’s DNA to make it self-destruct?
Researchers are developing a CRISPR pill which could help fight bacteria that have developed a resistance to other forms of antibiotics, the much-feared superbugs. Best of all, killing bacteria using CRISPR turns their own defenses against them. CRISPR is not just how I like my bacon, it’s also an acronym that stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.
It refers to sequences in a bacteria’s DNA that is pretty much what they sound like, short sequences that are partially the same backward and forwards that are spaced out regularly. CRISPR is actually a bacterium’s defense mechanism against viruses.
That’s right, bacteria get viruses, it’s a virus eat bacteria world out there. Anyway, when a virus attacks a bacterium, it injects it’s DNA into it. But if the Bacterium has been attacked by this kind of virus before, it’s saved a bit of it’s DNA in between the CRISPR strands. The bacteria will use that as a template to create a strand of RNA that can target the virus’ DNA.
Once the RNA is locked onto its friends, a protein called CRISPR associated protein 9, or cas9 chops up the virus DNA and renders it harmless. It’s like an ingenious primitive immune system. So scientists thought, “What if we used this bacterial defense to make the bacteria destroy its own DNA?”