The Biological Breakthrough of CRISPR-Based Gene Editing
Few discoveries transform a discipline overnight, but scientists today can manipulate cells in ways hardly imaginable before, thanks to a peculiar technology known as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). From elegant studies that deciphered how CRISPRs function in bacteria, researchers quickly uncovered the biological potential of Cas9, an RNA-guided DNA cleaving enzyme, for gene editing. Today, this core capability is being harnessed for a wide variety of ambitious applications, including agricultural improvement, the elimination of infectious diseases, and human therapeutics. CRISPR technology may indeed herald cures to certain genetic diseases and cancer, but so too could it be used to engineer heritable genetic changes in human embryos. What will we choose to do with this awesome power?