What you need to know about CRISPR | Ellen Jorgensen | Summary and Q&A

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What you need to know about CRISPR | Ellen Jorgensen

TL;DR

CRISPR is a versatile and controversial genome editing technology, sparking conversations about bringing back extinct species, editing human embryos, and the ethics of wiping out harmful species.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is CRISPR and why is it controversial?

CRISPR is a genome editing technology that allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA. It is controversial because it raises ethical questions about how it should be used, such as whether we should bring back extinct species or edit human embryos.

Q: How does the CRISPR system work?

The CRISPR system consists of a Cas9 protein and a guide RNA. The Cas9 protein acts like a Pac-Man, chewing DNA, while the guide RNA acts as a leash, guiding the Cas9 to the specific spot in the DNA where changes should be made. Together, they form the CRISPR system.

Q: What repair pathways are involved in CRISPR genome editing?

There are two major repair pathways that come into play during CRISPR genome editing. The first pathway simply rejoins the broken DNA strands, which may result in errors. The second, more interesting pathway utilizes a homologous piece of DNA as a template to repair the broken strands accurately.

Q: Is CRISPR cheap and easy to use?

CRISPR is often portrayed as being cheap and easy, but in reality, it requires a professional lab and expertise to work with. While it has lowered the cost of experiments and reduced the time needed for certain tasks, meaningful applications of CRISPR still require a professional setting. Additionally, there is an ongoing patent battle that may lead to hefty licensing fees for its use.

Q: What are the challenges and limitations of CRISPR?

There are still many unknowns and challenges when it comes to CRISPR. Researchers are still unraveling how cells and guide RNAs function, why some guide RNAs work better than others, and why repair pathways vary in different cells. Delivery of CRISPR into whole organisms also remains a challenge, often requiring the use of viruses. Long-term effects and off-target effects of CRISPR are also areas of concern that need further investigation.

Q: What positive applications does CRISPR have?

Despite the hype surrounding flashy applications, CRISPR is being used by thousands of scientists for important work. It helps create better disease models in animals, improve industrial production of valuable chemicals, and advance basic research on gene function. These aspects of CRISPR should be highlighted, as they showcase its potential for positive outcomes in various fields of science.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • CRISPR is a versatile and controversial genome editing technology sparking interesting conversations about bringing back extinct species, editing human embryos, and eradicating harmful species.

  • CRISPR functions using a Cas9 protein and guide RNA, which act as a guided missile to target specific spots in the genome and make edits.

  • CRISPR has the potential for significant scientific advancements, but it is not as easy or cheap as media hype suggests, requiring a professional lab and facing challenges with cell understanding, off-target effects, and patent battles.

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