The Genome editing technology is a revolutionary advancement of very recent years that combines the principles of molecular biology and genetic engineering to generate precise targeted modification in the genome. Advent of novel approaches in the genome editing technologies employing designer nucleases have substantially improved our ability to make precise changes in the genomes of eukaryotic cells. Genome editing as an emerging technology has a high impact on our ability to decipher the function of gene both ;in vitro ;and ;in vivo ;either by gene insertion, deletion or gene mutation. This relatively recent technology is already broadening our ability to elucidate the contribution of genetics to disease by facilitating the creation of accurate cellular and animal models of pathological processes. A more striking potential application of genome editing is the potential to directly correct genetic mutations in affected tissues and cells thus keeping alive the hope of treating debilitating diseases that are refractory to traditional therapies.
Several nucleases such as the ZFNs, TALENs and engineered meganucleases have opened up the era of genome editing tools and the recent CRISPR/Cas9 system is considered a breakthrough with the added advantage of simplicity, effectiveness and a precise site specific correction. The versatility of the system has spread across the field of biology from basic sciences to medicine, agriculture, livestock etc. and the doors remain wide open to be explored further.
In agriculture, genome editing offers a whole wide range of food management options with a huge potential to contribute to the much needed development of improved crops as well as providing a valuable research tool to allow more rapid analysis of genes responsible for key agronomic traits. Several studies have already proven the effectiveness of inducing mutations through genome editing in the model plant Arabidopsis. Successful examples have also been reported for several other crops with complex genomes, such as rice, sorghum, maize, citrus, poplar, tomato, wheat etc. which is further expanding at a rapid pace. The CRISPR/Cas9 system has implications in live stock as well as in eradication of several mosquito borne infections.
The most powerful application of the CRISPR/Cas9 system is in the field of therapeutic medicine where genome editing is first proposed as a treatment choice, some four decades ago when it seemed as a distant dream. Gene corrections/modifications for a range of antiviral therapies, cancer immunotherapies, haematological disorders, skin, liver, respiratory and ocular disorders etc. are in the various stages of preclinical and clinical studies. ;As with any rapidly advancing field, genomic editing also faces key issues regarding development of appropriate preclinical assays to evaluate off-target effects and establish safety. ;The technologies also raise concerns and present complex challenges, particularly because of their potential to be used to make genetic changes that could be passed on to future generations, thereby modifying the human germline. The field is dynamic with constant efforts on improvisation and CRISPR/Cpf1 system is very recent addition to the already available tools. Hence, in spite of the few limitations, which should be easy to overcome by the relentless efforts of researchers, the next few years promise a new hope in the lives of millions of affected people.
This symposium on ;‘Genome Editing technologies and their Applications in Biology, Medicine and Agriculture’ ;is thus an effort to bring together the key researchers from academia and industry to address the concepts, challenges and state of art methods & applications of the genome editing technologies. It provides an ideal platform to discuss the progress and address the limitations of the methods for further improvements through brain storming and thought provoking sessions. Discussions on the ethical issues concerned and understanding the strengths and limitations of the different tools, would aid in expanding the applications of genome editing methods in different systems. The challenges faced with the design, delivery and off-target effects associated and the solutions offered to overcome these would be some of the key areas to be addressed. This meeting hopes to bring together all the brains from the wide spread fields for their effective contributions, these recent genome editing technologies could have on improving the lives of people across the globe.