24 January 2019

Moving on from Traditional Biology to Modern Technology


Project Name: CRISPR Genome Editing.
Project Researcher: Dr. Tang Yin Quan & Dr. Yap Wei Hsum

Our DNA is the main carrier for our genetic information. It provides the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something. Advancement in Genome editing is now part and parcel of bio-technology. Genome Editing allows scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genes to be added, removed, or altered at will. Dr. Tang Yin Quan and Dr. Yap Wei Hsum from the School of Biosciences, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences is utilizing CRISPR, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short-palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9. This method is foreseen to faster, cheaper, more precise and efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

For Dr. Tang, the CRISPR genome editing technology is a simple yet powerful tool that holds the potential to revolutionize modern biology and medicine. It can control and regulate gene expression in different organisms; from bacteria to human, by precisely deleting undesirable traits (knock-out) or add desirable traits (knock-in). Many biotech/pharma companies and research institutions have adopted this genome editing technology in their R&D to fight inherited and infectious diseases (HIV, malaria) and cancer treatments. This indicates biology-related graduates will inevitably encounter CRISPR technology in their future career. Therefore, it is essential that our education prepare them for that reality by providing a balance between both state-of-the-art knowledge and hands-on practical training regarding CRISPR technology. Otherwise, the traditional biology curriculum seems somewhat outdated. 

Taylor's researcher doing research for Biology
Taylor's researcher doing research for Biology

Genome editing plays a great interest in the biology field. This is because from this method we are able to create prevention and treatment of human diseases. The most current research on genome editing is done to understand diseases using cells and animal models. At the moment, scientists is still working to determine whether or not this approach is ethically safe and effective to be used on human models. For The CRISPR-Cas9 system works similarly in the lab. Researchers create a small piece of RNA with a short"guide" sequence that attaches (binds) to a specific target sequence of DNA in a genome. The RNA also binds to the Cas9 enzyme. As in bacteria, the modified RNA is used to recognize the DNA sequence, and the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at the targeted location. Although Cas9 is the enzyme that is used most often, other enzymes (for example Cpf1) can also be used. Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell's own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or to make changes to the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customized DNA sequence.

“.. We need to equip undergraduates with future-ready skills in genome editing which includes gRNA synthesis, a generation of knockouts in HEK293 cells, and verification of gene editing. By creating a a 3-days CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing Design to Analysis Hands-on Workshop for Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences undergraduates, it will become an eye opening experience for them to see the relevancy of the workshop for their future development…”

For Dr. Tang, CRISPR Genome Editing is important for student’s learning and understanding. Students are the next generation of scientists. It is important that they learn and understand the important of CRISPR Genome Editing. The goal of this CRISPR learning is to educate our Taylor’s students to be globally competitive, with cutting-edge technologies, providing a platform for discussion and knowledge exchange of using CRISPR technology in biomedical, environmental, agricultural, and clinical development. With this CRISPR genome editing technology, it allowing scientists to edit crops to be more nutritious, and can be a new tool to fight inherited and infectious diseases (HIV, malaria) and cancer treatments.

To find out more on CRISPR Genome Editing by Dr. Tang Yin Quan, click here: and Dr. Yap Wei Hsum, click here: 

Taylor's researcher doing research for Biology
Taylor's researcher doing research for Biology
Dr. Tang Yin Quan
Lecturer, School of Bioscience, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences
Dr. Yap Wei Hsum
Senior Lecturer, School of Bioscience, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences