CRISPR explained: Everything you need to know

1-27-2019 crispr
Image credit: Tops Images

Here’s everything you need to know about the complex and sometimes controversial technology driving the gene-editing revolution.

CRISPR evolved as a way for some species of bacteria to defend themselves against viral invaders. Each time they faced a new virus, bacteria would capture snippets of DNA from that virus’ genome and create a copy to store in its own DNA.

[T]hese snippets of viral DNA were like little books – each one containing the data that allowed the bacterium to recognise and quickly kill off a virus next time it invaded. And in-between these chunks of useful DNA there are slightly less useful chunks of repetitive DNA keeping them separate – like a kind of molecular bookend.

The spacer sequence is turned into RNA – a molecule that contains messages from DNA – and hunts down the corresponding piece of viral DNA. Once it finds it, an enzyme attached to the RNA string acts as a pair of biological scissors, cutting the target DNA and rendering the virus harmless.

Related article:  More science education may not quell consumer fear of GMO, gene-edited crops, Japanese study suggests

Scientists use these basic principles to create their own CRISPR molecules which, as we pointed out above, are short stretches of RNA. All you need to do is open up a stretch of interesting-looking DNA – like the bit that contains the mutation that leads to sickle-cell anaemia – and build the complementary RNA sequence, with DNA-chopping enzyme attached.

Read full, original post: What is CRISPR? The revolutionary gene-editing tech explained

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