CRISPR – CAS9

CRISPR – CAS9

7 May 2018
innovation LifeSciences
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Will we soon be able to see woolly mammoths at the zoo?

According to Harvard University geneticist, George Church, it’s a possibility.

He has announced that by crossing the DNA of a mammoth conserved in ice with that of an Asian elephant this long-extinct creature could be brought back to life.

If researchers are starting to envisage this prospect, it’s thanks to a new gene-editing tool developed jointly by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna.

This tool is called CRISPR-Cas9, more commonly known as “DNA scissors”.

But don’t be misled by its child-like nickname as it’s a technology classified by the CIA in the category of weapons of mass destruction, in the same way as the North Korean nuclear programme or Syrian chemical weapons.

In a nutshell, CRISPR-Cas9 is a cut-and-paste technique whereby segments of DNA (CRISPR) act as a guide that homes in on the targeted stretch of genetic material.

The Cas9 is an enzyme that acts like molecular scissors to snip that spot. This allows scientists to delete, repair, or replace a particular gene.

The technique has already been tested on animals but its potential use on human guinea pigs is proving highly controversial.

Even legislation about using this technology on fruit has already led to a wave of resignations from France’s High Council for Biotechnology (HCB) for ethical reasons.

So, will we soon be seeing CRISPR babies who are resistant to cancer and other genetic diseases?

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