Gene editing, like CRISPR, is a scientific breakthrough that may help cure diseases, prevent aging, and change humanity. According to the US intelligence community, it’s also a potential weapon of mass destruction.
While scientists around the world continue to debate the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 system, the tool capable of precisely editing DNA on the genomic level, British scientists working at the Francis Crick Institute in London announced today that they have applied for permission from the United Kingdom’s fertility regulator (the UK Human Fertilization & Embryology Authority) to use this technique on viable human embryos. If granted, this would allow them to directly study humans’ earliest stage of development and would mark the first approval by a national regulatory body to employ the CRISPR/Cas9 system on viable human embryos.
CRISPR/Cas is a new technology that allows unprecedented control over the DNA code. It’s sparked a revolution in the fields of genetics and cell biology, becoming the scientific equivalent of a household name by raising hopes about new ways to curediseases including cancer and to unlock the remaining mysteries of our cells.
The fear of genetically-modified creatures escaping from the lab is the basis for a thousand sci-fi stories, but it’s also a legitimate concern. That’s why genetic engineers are inventing kill switches, or genetically-encoded suicide triggers, for GMOs they want to keep contained. Here’s how they work.
Earlier this week, Chinese researchers reported that they edited the genes of human embryos using a new technique called CRISPR. While these embryos will not being growing up into genetically modified people, I suspect this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine. David Cyranoski and Sara Reardon broke the news today at Nature News. Here I’ve put together a quick guide to the history behind this research, what the Chinese scientists did, and what it may signify.
A group of researchers are getting closer to bringing the extinct woolly mammoth back to life. Geneticist George Church’s lab at Harvard University successfully copied genes from frozen woolly mammoths and pasted them into the genome of an Asian elephant.