CRISPR: a hot new molecular biology tool

CRISPR: a hot new molecular biology tool

CRISPR is a hot new molecular biology tool, that you may have heard of, because everybody is using it to edit genomes, to fix genes, and break genes, and do all kinds of things.

CRISPR started out as a bacterial defense system and sniffs out viruses and chops them up into little pieces. But some very clever scientists have re-engineered the molecule so you can search out specific genes and change them.

According to most scientists CRISPR can do anything, but that’s not exactly true, but it can do a lot of stuff. They’ve already used it to create more muscular beagles,to repaint the wings on butterflies,to create a mushroom that doesn’t brown when you cut it and even to re-engineer some immune cells so they will go and kill tumor cells in cancer.So CRISPR is currently mostly a research tool, but it’s starting to get into helping people.
In 2017, you can expect, for instance, to see clinical trials for cancer starting out with CRISPR. And also, possibly, bringing CRISPR  back to its roots to combat viruses like HIV and hepatitis

There’s a question about whether using CRISPR is ethical in a lot of different situations. On the one hand we have the problem of engineering designer babies perhaps, by changing their genes with CRISPR. And a lot of people are really uncomfortable with that. But even if you just limit it to curing diseases, for instance, some people may not be able to afford CRISPR therapy.

A lot of my beat is concerned with on the one hand we can do all these incredible things with tools like CRISPR, but on the other hand should we really do them?

 

 

 

Tina Hesman Saey

Molecular Biologist

Science News Magazine



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