Saturday, November 19, 2016

CRISPR: A Revolutionary Tool for Editing the Code of Life?

"Genes, the fundamental code of life, are written in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Before DNA was even discovered, humans sought to manipulate it through selective breeding. Since its discovery, scientists, science fiction writers, philosophers, and others have speculated on the implications of being able to modify DNA. Over the last half century, billions of dollars and immeasurable effort have been devoted to understanding, characterizing, and controlling DNA. These efforts produced early gene editing tools and, in 2003, the completion of the Human Genome Project. Similar sequencing has been completed on thousands of other species.

Current gene editing tools have allowed scientists to edit the genomes of agricultural crops (e.g., improving insect resistance) and to create animal research models (e.g., transgenic mice). However, shortcomings in gene editing technologies have hindered even wider use.

CRISPR-cas9 (CRISPR for short) is a new gene editing tool that offers the potential for substantial improvements in ease of use, speed, efficacy, and cost. Many in the scientific, engineering, and business communities believe CRISPR may offer revolutionary advances in the investigation, prevention, and treatment of diseases; understanding of gene function; crop yields and varieties; production of chemicals used in biofuels, adhesives, and fragrances; and control of invasive species. CRISPR has already been used to modify the genomes of a variety of species—ranging from mice and fruit flies to corn and yeast. Some scientists believe the relative simplicity and lower cost of CRISPR represents the democratization of genetic engineering.."

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