On the afternoon of October 7th, Beijing time, the Nobel Committee awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two female scientists, Emmanuele Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the United States. The reason given by the committee was that they had “developed a method of genome editing”.
Specifically, they found one of the sharpest tools in genetic technology, the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors. Using this technique, researchers can transform the DNA of plants and microorganisms with great precision. The technology has revolutionization in life sciences and is seen as promising for precision treatment of genetic diseases.
It’s worth noting that in the 120-year history of the Nobel Prize, there will be only four female physics award winners and five female chemists by 2019. But yesterday, andrea Grizzlies, the women’s science prize winner, won the physics prize with Roger Penrose and Leinhard Genzel, and today two more women’s chemistry prize winners.
While rejoicing, there is another thing that people are paying attention to at this year’s Chemistry Prize: Why did Zhang Feng, a Chinese scientist, lose his arm? The reporter’s first question to the Nobel committee was very pointed, “Is there anyone else who can take the award?” “
What is CRISPR? When a virus wants to attack bacteria, it injects its own DNA into the bacteria, and the bacteria turn on the defense system CRISPR to avoid death. CRISPR looks like a normal DNA sequence, but if you zoom in, you’ll see that the sequence has a huge database of viruses.
The defense system also continuously produces a variety of proteins (Cas), and whenever a new virus invades, these scissors-like proteins run out to cut off the virus’s DNA and then hide the enemy’s DNA fragments in the virus library. If you encounter the same virus again in the future, CRISPR can quickly match and then eliminate infection.
CRISPR Sequence Illustration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As early as 1987, scientists discovered the CRISPR sequence, and it wasn’t until 2012 that two pioneers, Sharpenti and Dudner, first demonstrated in the journal Science that one of CRISPR’s “scissors”, CRISPR/Cas9, could be genetically edited. Their original work was to purify the Cas9 protein and discover that it was a dual RNA-guided DNA in-cut enzyme that, for the first time in-body, demonstrated the ability of CRISPR to modify genes in living cells using Cas9’s CRISPR system to cut arbitrary DNA strands.
In recent years, scientists have used CRISPR to efficiently and accurately alter, edit, or replace genes in plants, animals, and even humans, and modified CRISPR technology has been widely used in agriculture and biomedicine. In 2018, for example, studies have shown that CRISPR technology has been used to successfully treat four dogs with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and restore malnutrition proteins in their muscles and heart tissue to 92% of normal levels.
“Very few recent discoveries have changed research in the entire field, as CRISPR has in the biological field. It has great potential for application in human health and disease. Vincent Verdile, chairman of the Albany Biomedical Awards Committee, August 2018.
In this way, CRISPR is considered “God’s scissors”.
Who else found the scissors?
In 2013, Zhang Feng, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a senior fellow at the Broad Institute, and George Chech, a professor at Harvard Medical School, published separate papers in Science that showed that CRISPR/Cas9 can edit mammalian cell genes, which they successfully applied to mouse and human cells.
From left is dudner, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize, and right is 38-year-old Zhang Feng Bloomberg.
Zhang Feng said the idea of putting Cas protein clusters and tracrRNA into mammalian cells began in 2011, and long before the Dudner team came up with evidence of CRISPR technology from its initial idea to its successful application in mammalian cells, the whole concept of CRISPR/Cas9 was fully demonstrated. The Chinese scientist received the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s first patent grant for CRISPR in 2014, which means that he and the institute have patents in the U.S. for CRISPR/Cas9 technology for all uerical organisms, including plants, animals, and humans, one of the most central patents in the commercialization of CRISPR technology.
But the patent battle is not over. In 2016, Dudner’s side demonstrated the whole concept of CRISPR/Cas9 by suggesting that Zhang Feng was based on her thesis, while Dudner believed that Dudner was simply predicting that CRISPR would work on human cells and that it contained actual motion. In 2017, a judge ruled that the patent remained owned by Zhang Feng.
CRISPR-based gene editing techniques have four key discoverers: Sharpentier, Cherch, Dudner, and Zhang Feng. So the rule that the Nobel Prize can be awarded to up to three people is obviously a problem. Philip Sharp, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize, once said. A more sensible decision, he argues, might be that the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Dudner and Sharpenti, who worked on pure biochemical, physiological or medical awards for Chic and Zhang Feng, who successfully applied CRISPR in living cells, paving the way for the application of medicine.
Introduction to the life of the winner.
Emmanuel Sharpenti, a French microbiologist, received his Ph.D. from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, in 1995 and is now Director of the Institute of Infectious Biology at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. In the development of CRISPR, the main contribution was to discover that the activity of cas9 proteins depended on tracrRNA.
Jennifer Dudner, born February 19, 1964, is a professor of chemistry and molecular biology and cell biology at the University of Berkeley, a researcher at the Howard Hughes Institute of Medicine, and a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. And Sharpenti won the 2015 Life Sciences Breakthrough Award for discovering the CRISPR/Cas9 system.