Human genome editing – the issues explained

Hayley Clissold from the Sanger Institute’s policy team team explores the issues surrounding gene editing and human embryos.

 

Genome editing is a technique used to modify a specific section of DNA. As all living things contain DNA, genome editing has an almost unlimited range of applications in organisms including bacteria, plants, animals and humans.

 

Genome editing is not a new technology. In fact, it has been around for decades. Genome editing has only recently taken the scientific world by storm because of the discovery of a new tool called CRISPR. CRISPR is simpler, faster, cheaper and much more efficient than any of its predecessor genome editing tools and because of its accessibility, CRISPR is now used in a vast spectrum of applications in labs all around the world.

 

CRISPR was originally discovered as a bacterial immune system. Some bacteria deploy CRISPR as a defense mechanism to chop up the DNA of an invading virus. Because of its ability to target and cut specific stretches of DNA, CRISPR is capable of removing any particular sequence – for example, disease-causing gene variants can be taken out of a genome. The technology also allows DNA sequences to be added or changed – so a disease-causing variant can be replaced with a ‘healthy’ one. Clearly, this technology offers almost limitless possibilities for science and in particular for healthcare.

 

Sourced through Scoop.it from: sangerinstitute.blog