Could Prime Editing be a “Prime” use in the Future?

Have you ever wanted to change something about yourself? Maybe get that naturally amazing skin? Faster metabolism? Maybe even grow a couple extra inches? Well you’re in luck since science is developing Genome editing!

Would you consider getting your DNA edited? well, if you’re planning too, I’ll explain everything you need to know!

in this article, I have 4 main points:

  • CRISPR - how it’s the base line to Prime editing
  • How Prime editing is safer/better
  • Companies interested in Prime editing
  • Possibilities of Prime editing in the future

CRISPR – how its similar to prime editing

An example of what CRISPR gene editing technology could be visualized as

CRISPR cas 9 is another genetic modification technology that was made in 2012. It stands for short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. CRISPR edits your genes by cutting DNA and letting it repair itself afterwards. Sometimes, you can even replace the DNA you cut out with DNA you want! Being able to change your own DNA is a scientific break through! Imagine how many people are going to want to use this?! I’m definitely signing up!

You’re probably thinking, “Woah this is great! I can finally get that perfect nose I’ve always wanted!” here’s the catch, It needs to be next to PAM sequences. If it can’t recognize a PAM sequence, it wont cut the DNA at the specific spot. Its safe, but there are definitely many major risks.

Some of the main risks that CRISPR can cause are unwanted changes in human embryos. Instead of addressing genetic mutations, CRISPR prompted cells to lose entire chromosomes! Also, CRISPR isn’t extremely precise, so it could accidentally remove the wrong piece! There would obviously be major issues with it if it took the wrong thing. Imagine getting plastic surgery for a nose job, and they give you a face lift instead! Yikes! Also, targeting hazardous genes (e.g., oncogenes, tumor suppressors, etc.) could increase the
risk of something going wrong.

Prime editing is another genome editing technology. It’s very similar to CRISPR, but also different. Prime editing was discovered in 2019. its a more precise version. Also, Prime editing is more “search and replace” while CRISPR is “cut and paste”.

Essentially, it’s a strand of CRISPR that scientists believe is “better for long-term use”.

The key difference is that Prime editing can perform targeted small insertions, deletions, and base swapping in an extremely precise way. Plus, it would be cheaper than CRISPR since it uses less material and time to “search and replace” than to “cut and paste”, as mentioned before.

For short, it’s just CRISPR but they add on a reverse transcriptase so that they can have a bit of the guide RNA act as a template for the repair/replace.

As my mom always says, sometimes cheaper is better!

How Prime editing is safer/better

Before I even begin, Prime editing is known as the better version of CRISPR. You could say that CRISPR was the rough draft for Prime editing, and most of the upcoming genome editing resources that we’ll come across in the future.

For my first argument on why it’s better is that its more accessible. As I mentioned earlier in the article, CRISPR cas 9 relies on a PAM sequence being next to it. No PAM equals no editing done or worst case scenario, a mutation. Prime editing on the other hand doesn’t need a PAM sequence next to it for it to work.

how prime editing works

Another reason is that Prime editing’s main advantage is that it’s much more precise than CRISPR. Therefore, it has a higher success rate. If I had to choose from a precise genome editing technology or a slightly less precise one, I would obviously pick the more precise one! Every millimeter counts when you're editing genes! it introduces single-stranded DNA breaks instead of the double-stranded DNA breaks, which has less of a risk.

After getting this far, considering finally getting better eyesight? We know your glasses are fogging up!

Another key reason that Prime editing is overall better is, as said by first author Maarten Geurts, “It can build in a new piece of DNA without causing damage elsewhere in the DNA.”

a simpler photo

As you can see, there's less work required for Prime editing and it has a higher success rate since its much more precise.

You can think of it as cooking. Usually, making brownies from scratch is healthier (unless you add an unreasonable amount of sugar) than a brownie batch bought from Walmart. Why? Because one is organic and you know everything in it. The other (batch from Walmart) probably has random ingredients that makes it easier to make, but definitely has unhealthy/hidden ingredients. Getting hungry yet?

Companies interested in Prime editing

Prime editing is a fairly new concept, so there aren't too many companies interested yet.

First and foremost, there is the company that found it out, New York Gene Editing Company. NYGEC had $315 million in financing, and was the first to try out Prime editing. It was lead/ cofounded by David Liu and Andrew Anzalone.

the cofounders of prime editing

Currently, they are still doing experiments to test out how safe it really is. Also, having a solid success rate will definitely get it more users!

A couple other companies interested and currently trying out Prime editing are: Intellia Therapeutics (NTLA), Editas Medicine (EDIT), BEAM Therapeutics (BEAM )and Caribou Biosciences (CRBU).

With about 5 companies interested, Prime editing is definitely going viral sooner or later!

Possibilities of Prime editing in the future!

If Prime editing gains popularity and is proven right, there are endless possibilities that it can be used for!

Something I would love to see happen is the reincarnation of extinct animals!

It has already been used and successful in curing mice from genetic disorders! If Prime Editing can do that, scientists believe it can bring back extinct animals by editing their DNA. A “prime” (get it?) example of that would be attempting to bring back the Woolly Mammoth by editing the DNA of some of its distant relatives.

Prime editing could also potentially be used to create crops like corn and squash for poorer countries with bad soil. They could change the DNA in specific seeds to make them grow in harsher soils/climates.

An obvious use of Prime editing in the future would be repairing genes that cause genetic disorders. With that, we could also cure diseases that insert viral DNA in the human genome (like HIV).

Another great use for Prime editing that I think should be advertised in the media is changing genetics for transgender people. Most people get a surgery to feel better or just take doses of the hormone they want (testosterone or estrogen), but many still feel unvalidated. Being able to change their DNA, even slightly, would make most transgender people feel better about themselves!

Lastly, if Prime editing is proven safe, it could be a great alternative in the beauty realm! Not everything would work, but it could definitely do a lot! Actually, it could probably go farther than plastic surgery! Last time I checked, plastic surgery can’t give you naturally stronger hair!

Final thoughts?

After reading through this article, considering getting rid of that one insecurity yet?

Did you know all about this? Before thoroughly researching this topic, I knew almost nothing! If you believe that Prime editing has a future, consider dropping a like and comment down below!

-Mariam A. <3

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