Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle Up. | WIREDCrispr or Crispr-Cas9, lets researchers perform cut-and-paste operations on DNA, the hereditary material, with unprecedented ease and precision. Unlike most types of gene therapy, a longstanding approach that aims to alter only adult human tissues that die with the patient, the Crispr technique could be used to change human eggs, sperm and early embryos, and such alterations would be inherited by the patient’s children. Because changing the human germ line is perceived to hold far-reaching consequences, the leading scientific academies of the United States, Britain and China issued a joint statement in December asking researchers around the world to hold off on altering human inheritance.A British regulatory agency that oversees reproductive biology, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, on Monday approved an application by Kathy Niakan, of the Francis Crick Institute in London, to alter human embryos with the Crispr technique. Dr. Niakan, a developmental biologist, has no intention of implanting the altered embryos in a womb. According to a report in Nature, she will let the embryos expire when they are seven days old and have reached the blastocyst, or implantation, stage. The usual source of such embryos is fertility clinics that have generated more than their clients need.
DNA editing takes a serious step forward -- for better or worse - LA Times - (May 3, 2015)
Using the three-year-old technique, researchers have already reversed mutations that cause blindness, stopped cancer cells from multiplying, and made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS. Agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi like powdery mildew, hinting at engineered staple crops that can feed a population of 9 billion on an ever-warmer planet. Bioengineers have used Crispr to alter the DNA of yeast so that it consumes plant matter and excretes ethanol, promising an end to reliance on petrochemicals. Startups devoted to Crispr have launched. International pharmaceutical and agricultural companies have spun up Crispr R&D. Two of the most powerful universities in the US are engaged in a vicious war over the basic patent. Depending on what kind of person you are, Crispr makes you see a gleaming world of the future, a Nobel medallion, or dollar signs.
The technique is revolutionary, and like all revolutions, it's perilous. Crispr goes well beyond anything the Asilomar conference discussed. It could at last allow genetics researchers to conjure everything anyone has ever worried they would—designer babies, invasive mutants, species-specific bioweapons, and a dozen other apocalyptic sci-fi tropes. It brings with it all-new rules for the practice of research in the life sciences. But no one knows what the rules are—or who will be the first to break them.
In the last few months, many researchers have come to realize that the new gene editing tool, known as CRISPR/Cas9, might provide an easy means for molding a person when he or she is just a single-celled embryo.Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9 - YouTube
CRISPR/Cas9 makes it possible for nearly any scientist to edit DNA in nearly any cell. In the last couple of years, scientists have used it to edit genes in adult human cells, including bone marrow cells that may be modified to make people resistant to HIV. Researchers have also used it on animal embryos, including an experiment that proved it was possible to create primates with customized versions of genes involved in immune function and metabolism.
This animation depicts the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing – a powerful new technology with many applications in biomedical research, including the potential to treat human genetic disease. Feng Zhang, a leader in the development of this technology, is a faculty member at MIT, an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and a core member of the Broad Institute. Further information can be found on Prof. Zhang’s website at http://zlab.mit.edu .