Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) named breakthrough of the year

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December 20, 2015 Berkley News

As the runner-up in the past two years, the revolutionary generic research and gene therapy knows as CRISPR has distanced itself from the pack, demonstrating its sheer power and potential in a series of groundbreaking achievements such as creating the ‘gene drive’ that could wipe out pests and the diseases they transmit and the groundbreaking deliberate editing of the DNA of a human embryo.

The implications of editing human embryos drove UC Berkeley inventor Jennifer Doudna to convene a discussion of CRISPR ethics in Napa in January, which led to an international summit in Washington early this month and a consensus statement to hold off on using gene-editing technologies to alter human eggs, sperm or embryos – so-called germline gene-editing – until more is known about the long-term implications of making hereditary changes to the human genome.

CRISPR, or CRISPR-Cas9, has invaded every other area of genetics, however, leading to genetically modified pigs, beagles and wheat. “Longer-lasting tomatoes, allergen-free peanuts and biofuel-friendly poplars are all on the drawing board,” Travis wrote. And biomedical applications are blossoming as scientists apply CRISPR to diseases such as diabetes, AIDS and cancer.

“In short, it’s only slightly hyperbolic to say that if scientists can dream of a genetic manipulation, CRISPR can now make it happen,” Travis concluded. “It’s the simple truth. For better or worse, we all now live in CRISPR’s world.”

 

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