CRISPR primer: Explaining the powerful gene-editing tool

crispr feature

CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.

CRISPR technology was adapted from the natural defense mechanisms of bacteria and archaea (the domain of single-celled microorganisms). These organisms use CRISPR-derived RNA and various Cas proteins, including Cas9, to foil attacks by viruses and other foreign bodies. They do so primarily by chopping up and destroying the DNA of a foreign invader. When these components are transferred into other, more complex, organisms, it allows for the manipulation of genes, or “editing.”

CRISPR technology has also been applied in the food and agricultural industries to engineer probiotic cultures and to vaccinate industrial cultures (for yogurt, for example) against viruses. It is also being used in crops to improve yield, drought tolerance and nutritional properties.

Making genetic modifications to human embryos and reproductive cells such as sperm and eggs is known as germline editing. Since changes to these cells can be passed on to subsequent generations, using CRISPR technology to make germline edits has raised a number of ethical concerns.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: What Is CRISPR?

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia

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