CRISPR: Amazing and Life-Changing Tech

Your Guide to Understanding How CRISPR Works
Your Guide to Understanding How CRISPR Works

Is CRISPR really such a big deal? Put simply: Yes. Here's why, and the nitty gritty of how the gene-editing tool works.

Nikki Diefenbach

Gene-editing technology has gotten so much easier with CRISPR, a technology in which the DNA of any cell can be cut and altered. Here are three different and unbelievable ways it is now being used.

Delicious Fruity Frankensteins

The groundcherry is an unpopular fruit because its growth is so hard to control. It is small like a cherry tomato and has flavors of pineapple and mango. Associate professor Joyce Van Eck at Cornell University joined forces with Zachary Lippman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and set about using CRISPR to make this novelty fruit into a specialty crop. They made the growth of the fruit more compact by targeting the self-pruning gene. Then they altered the genes so it would be 25% bigger. Because the US and other countries rely on only a few types of crops, Eck points out that it is important to diversify our staple crops to protect us from crop failure in one or more crops.

Violet flowers become white flowers

Japanese scientists inserted the CRISPR system into morning glory plant embryos. The CRISPR was designed to disrupt a gene responsible for the color of the plant and changed it from violet to white. The gardening industry could soon have great potential to choose new colors for flowers.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy halted in dogs

1 in 3500 boys worldwide are born with muscular dystrophy; the resulting muscle loss makes this usually a fatal genetic disease. University of Texas Southwestern researchers inserted CRISPR gene-editing treatment into one-month-old beagles. The gene editing restored the dystrophin, an essential protein found in muscle and heart tissue, in the dogs by up to 92 percent. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University who also serves on the board of Exonics, the company that funded the study, postulates that the treatment will move to human clinical trials in the next few years.

CRISPR is changing the potential of horticulture, the genetics in our food supply and raising hope for humans. This scientific innovation will have a profound effect on many more areas as well and it is amazing to see gene-editing tech grow.

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Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. What concerns are there with CRISPR as it relates to modifying human embryos?

Q2. What other advances do you know of that involve CRISPR?

Q3. What are the ethical implications of gene editing?