CRISPR Gene Editing Set to Revolutionize Waste Management

When people think of waste management, gene editing probably does not come to most people’s minds. Yet the innovative CRISPR genome modification technology fits well within the confines of managing pollution and waste on the planet. In particular, scientists are looking at how CRISPR can help with bioremediation, or pollutant neutralization.

Why Neutralize Pollutants?

The planet is in dire need of help as the negative impact of climate change hovers on the horizon. One of the ways that researchers are revolutionizing waste management and environmentalism is by neutralizing the pollutants that are taking up space in our landfills and oceans.

Scientists have noticed that certain organisms are particularly good at removing toxins from pollutants while others have the advantage of immobilizing toxins. Researchers are connecting the dots in order to figure out how CRISPR can help make these processes more efficient.

CRISPR-Aided Bioremediation

While it is great that scientists have discovered microorganisms that can metabolize pollutants and produce less toxic matter, what if those properties could be expanded?

CRISPR researchers are trying to do just that by using genetic editing to transfer more advantageous genes to other organisms, thus giving them even more power over toxic pollutants. This would speed up the process of natural bioremediation techniques without adding high costs and dangers.

An Edge Over Traditional Techniques

Using CRISPR technology, especially the promising CRISPR/Cas9 lentiviral system, will not only speed up the process but it will do a better job than traditional methods of bioremediation. By using the gene editing technique, scientists can create more chemically superior microorganisms that have more advantageous enzymes. That results in better neutrality of harmful pollutants in the planet’s soil and oceans. In turn, this also ramps up molecular biodiversity, which improves the cleanup process.

Speaking of molecules, the CRISPR method targets different molecular processes within a microorganism’s cells, either to regulate an existing gene or to create an entirely new one. When looking at a particular gene, scientists analyze its ability to target pollutants as well as its process for remediation.

Enhancing Bioremediation with CRISPR

Experts need to keep several aspects in mind when improving the abilities of a remediating organism and ramping up its efficiency. First of all, they need to look at the molecular pathways that lead an organism to remediate or neutralize a pollutant. Are there changes or improvements scientists that can make to these pathways? What can they add or take away?

They do a similar thing with the organism’s enzymes. Next comes bioprocessing and biosensor development, which allows scientists to test the microbial cells for chemical testing and removal efficiency.

Removing Harmful Pollutants

Take mercury, for example, which is a metal that is harmful to the planet as well as those who live on it. The E. coli bacteria has a removal efficiency of 96 when it comes to eradicating mercury.

Scientists can take that Hg2 gene and transporter and perhaps transport it to another microorganism that can metabolize and neutralize another type of pollutant. Researchers continue to look at how this technique can help us clean up the growing number of pollutants in the environment.

It is not just microorganisms that they’re working on, either. Genetic manipulation in plants is another exciting endeavor that could help out in the bioremediation field. By looking at the detoxification processes in certain plants, scientists are trying to figure out how to use CRISPR technology to amp up bioremediation or, rather, phytoremediation efforts.

Some human genes could be especially useful to certain plants that can target heavy metals in the soil. Whether they enhance existing plant species or generate completely new ones, this is an exciting development in remediation efforts against pollutants.

Is Aquaculture the Answer to World Hunger?

Feeding a growing world population could become problematic, but aquaculture might hold the key. If humans are anything, we are resourceful. We see a problem with the world, and we do what we can to fix it.  When being nomadic and following food sources was no longer sustainable, we solved the problem by developing agriculture.  Currently, as the population continues to grow and our taste for seafood increases, we’re trying to find ways to meet demand and, at the same time, sustain wild populations of fishes.

aquaculture-fish-farms

Aquaculture is the answer to this current dilemma. Farming fish for food has been around since about 2000 B.C. Since then, technology has helped it advanced and developed better techniques to raise fish for food.

Benefits of Aquaculture

Fish is a great source of protein, and it also contains essential minerals including potassium, zinc, iodine and magnesium. Fish are also rich in phosphorus and calcium. For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.

The health benefits of fish are more than enough reason to eat them, but they are also a delicious meal. There is a large variety of fish to choose from, including freshwater and saltwater varieties. However, the increased amount of people eating fish has had an impact on wild populations. To prevent certain species from being overfished, it is important to find an alternative to providing fish to people, and that includes aquaculture.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish. Large companies can engage in aquaculture on an industrial scale with fish held in tanks or in pens in lakes, ponds or even the ocean. Families can even perform aquaculture in their backyard.

The variety of fish that you can raise for food includes catfish, bait minnow, trout, carp and tilapia, among others.  It’s also possible to raise shellfish, including oysters and shrimp. Want to try your hand at growing water plants?  You can also use aquaculture principles for water chestnuts and red and brown algae.

Studies have shown that marine aquaculture has the potential to produce 16.5 billion tons of fish per year, which is more than enough to feed the growing population and meet nutritional needs.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish.

In some areas, such as parts of Africa, aquaculture has made an enormous impact on the local community’s economy and employment as well. The food produced helps to sustain Africa’s growing population and provides local jobs with steady income.

The Downside of Aquaculture

While it has the potential to feed hungry communities and contribute to local economies, there are some problems associated with aquaculture. Having too many fish in a tank can lead to the spread of disease.  Also, the type of feed the fish eat can impact how healthy they are for humans. Keeping fish in pens in lakes, ponds or the ocean might cause the spread of parasites to wild populations.  Farmed fish could also escape their enclosure and, as a result, alter the natural ecosystem.

Recognizing the shortcomings of aquaculture is the first step to remedying its problems. As technology and farming practices advance and techniques improve, it’s possible that we will resolve many of these issues. This will lead to greater benefits for the human population that depends on fish for food.

Humans have the ingenuity and drive to make the world a better place for themselves and others. Population growth isn’t going to slow down any time soon, and we need to make sure everyone is taken care of and has enough to eat. While aquaculture has its pros and cons, it can be a sustainable and economic way to feed hungry people.  In time, it may even be the answer to world hunger.