For anyone who has been in any science school or class whatsoever, they probably know that the cells hold DNA, as do the mitochondria which are the organelles that power each and every cell. Genome editing has also been discussed a lot on science discussion forums worldwide, as scientists are starting to gain the power to edit DNA.
Mitochondria were their own organisms that were absorbed by the eukaryotic cells thousands of years in the past, and mutations and diseases that stem from the mitochondria are causes of genetic diseases that can be hard to treat after birth.
These can affect every part of the body, and include, but are not limited to poor growth, autism, seizures, low coordination, and dementia. These are hard to diagnose and even harder to cure entirely, with most treatment only serving to deal with the symptoms or slow down the severity of the problem.
This can change the game for everyone involved, as children can be bred with specific traits in mind to make them faster or smarter, or they can be the first in their family to not have a genetic disease. However, the mitochondria DNA also can develop dangerous mutations and can’t be changed with genome editing. Until now.
A new study
Older tools that have been previously used to splice DNA have been tested in mice that have mitochondria mutations. These tools can destroy the mutations and counter the effects that they have on the host body.
In layman’s terms, the genome editing uses RNA to move the editing DNA to the right spots in the genes, then the DNA that is wished to be edited in simply snipped away, almost like using scissors. However, mitochondria can’t handle RNA.
So the older genome editing tools, which don’t use RNA, were introduced through harmless viruses that moved into the test mice and were able to lower the amount of defective mitochondria DNA inside of them. With this success, it could be used for humans as well.
Not there yet
But it’s a long step away because the genes that could destroy the mitochondria mutations are also only able to enter the body through viruses, and having a virus be a treatment isn’t the best way to get people in the door for gene therapy. Plus, ensuring that the tools reach the right spots in the right amounts to cure humans is also a challenge.
However, this is a good time to be studying these diseases, as people who have mitochondria mutations might have a shot at a cure even late in life. With the severity of the symptoms and the problems people have throughout their lives because of them, this study could be an incredible ray of hope to fix previously unfixable problems.
Still, it’s amazing how older tools that have been replaced by newer models can still provide some support in the current day for science and without them, this study and all its benefits could have never happened.