What is CRISPR Technology?
CRISPR is a gene editing technology that can either edit specific gene DNA or turn genes on or off inside cells. CRISPR does not alter genetic sequencing. Before CRISPR was invented in 2012, there were some other ways to edit genes of animals and plants, but these ways were extremely time consuming and expensive. CRISPR is simple and inexpensive.
How Does CRISPR Work?
CRISPR has many benefits, and is already in use in some foods and in a lot of scientific research. CRISPR also has the potential benefit of being able to edit the genes of our farm animals and even children. In some countries, such as China, CRISPR in human children has been outlawed as being unethical, but there are potential benefits to children, like editing out genes that cause genetic diseases or turning them off, so that a child is born healthy instead of ill.
How Can CRISPR Help Me Lose Weight?
As far as weight loss, CRISPR has been found in mice to be able to turn white fat cells into brown fat cells, which burn energy. Even mice who were on a high-fat diet were able to avoid obesity and obesity-related disorders like diabetes, which is remarkable.
In humans, there is generally a lot of white fat and a much smaller amount of brown fat, which also stores energy. Brown fat is stimulated when humans are exposed to cold temperatures, but there are no known methods currently for creating more brown fat in the body yet.
A woman named Yu-Hua Tseng, who is a researcher at Harvard University, and her team have been using CRISPR to make human white fat cells act like brown fat cells. The researchers have done this by using CRISPR to target a protein gene called UCP1 that is only evident in brown fat, which essentially is used to turn chemical energy into heat. These modified cells work almost just as well as regular brown fat cells.
Although this research is still in testing stages, Tseng says that this and other methods might be used in the future to treat people with metabolic disorders related to obesity. This research might be especially useful for people who have not been able to lose weight by traditional methods, like diet and exercise.