It’s the dawning of a new genetic age. The CRISPR/Cas9 technology is going to make editing DNA, according to many geneticists, as easy and almost as cheap as editing a document in Microsoft Word. That could mean major breakthroughs in disease treatment and prevention, particularly when it comes to diseases that sprout from genetic predisposition such as sickle cell disease or Huntington’s.
The use of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), a naturally occurring immune system in bacteria that can be programmed to cut and paste DNA sequences, could even lead to what some call “designer babies,” babies that the privileged could edit to make stronger, healthier, and smarter than everyone else on the planet. This month, Chinese scientists are going to open Pandora’s box and become the first to experiment with CRISPR on live human subjects.
But what’s the point of living a long, healthy life without a long, healthy joint by our side? Don’t worry. There’s no reason why cannabis should be left behind in the genetic revolution. Several CRISPR experiments have already been done on plants. Some sciencey peeps have succeeded in editing the allergens out of peanuts, diseases have been prevented in tomatoes, and researchers have even monkeyed with the idea of changing the taste of apples with the technology.
And weed? What about weed? What can be done to apples can be done to weed. (Maybe we can even genetically alter apples so that they make better pipes when we’re in a pinch.)
The cannabis genome has already been unlocked, giving scientists an understanding of how, for instance, Purple Kush differs in its genetic code from hemp strains. After looking at “534 million base pairs of sequence across nearly 790 million bases,” according to GenomeWeb, researchers found “enzyme expressions” that predispose the kush to dankness and hemp to anti-dankness.
That kind of information can be used by technology like CRISPER to rewrite genetic code in heady buds and make them even more headier. Thank god for science.
Photo via Flickr user Martjin