In this video from WIRED, biologist Neville Sanjana discusses CRISPR with a 7-year old, 14 year-old, a college student, a grad student and a CRISPR expert.
The CRISPR/Cas systems are Bacteria's immune system enabling them to counter viral infection.Its efficient gene editing capability has been reimagined as a scientific tool for probing gene function to possibly curing diseases.
Learn more: the inner workings of CRISPR
The technique is revolutionary, and its uptake by scientists has been rapid. But its implementation may not be without its risks, such as off-target genome editing. A whole genome sequencing study by Columbia University of CRISPR modified mice revealed 'more than 1,500 [off-target] single-nucleotide mutations and more than 100 larger deletions and insertions'.
Read more: whole genome sequencing reveals pitfalls of in vivo CRISPR gene editing
With the first clinical trial of a CRISPR-based therapy in China currently underway, the use of CRISPR raises important safety and ethical questions. The researchers interviewed in this video highlight the limitations of this technique and explain the 'unknowns' and challenges for the future.
CRISPR is a new area of biomedical science that enables gene editing and could be the key to eventually curing diseases like autism or cancer.