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.
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.