The past eight years have seen massive strides
forward for the field of genome editing, thanks to a new technology known as
CRISPR. This newfound ability to edit humanity’s genetic code provides both
profound opportunities for human betterment and difficult ethical questions
about how far the technology should be permitted to go. Kevin Davies and I
recently discussed these questions on an episode of Political Economy.
Kevin is the executive editor of The CRISPR Journal and the founding editor of Nature Genetics. He is also the author of several books, including the recently released “Editing Humanity: The CRISPR Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing.”
Below is an abbreviated transcript of our conversation. You can read our full discussion here. You can also subscribe to my podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, or download the podcast on Ricochet.
Your book’s title refers to the “CRISPR revolution.” How
Researchers know how to make precise genetic changes within the genomes of crops, but the transformed cells often refuse to grow into plants. One team has devised a new solution.
Scientists who want to improve crops face a dilemma: it can be difficult to grow plants from cells after you’ve tweaked their genomes.
A new tool helps ease this process by coaxing the transformed cells, including those modified with the gene-editing system CRISPR-Cas9, to regenerate new plants. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Specialist Juan M. Debernardi and Investigator Jorge Dubcovsky, together with David Tricoli at the University of California, Davis Plant Transformation Facility, Javier Palatnik from Argentina, and colleagues at the John Innes Centre, collaborated on the work. The team reports the technology, developed in wheat and tested in other crops, October 12, 2020, in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
“The problem is that transforming a plant is still
The CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool is one of the most promising approaches to advancing treatments of genetic diseases – including cancer -, an area of research where progress is constantly being made.
Now, the Molecular Cytogenetics Unit led by Sandra Rodríguez-Perales at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) has taken a step forward by effectively applying this technology to eliminate so-called fusion genes, which in the future could open the door to the development of cancer therapies that specifically destroy tumors without affecting healthy cells. The paper is published in Nature Communications.
Fusion genes are the abnormal result of an incorrect joining of DNA fragments that come from two different genes, an event that occurs by accident during the process of cell division. If the cell cannot benefit from this error, it will die and the fusion genes will be eliminated.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences yesterday awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on CRISPR, a method of genome editing.
A genome is the full set of genetic “instructions” that determine how an organism will develop. Using CRISPR, researchers can cut up DNA in an organism’s genome and edit its sequence.
CRISPR technology is a powerhouse for basic research and is also changing the world we live in. There are thousands of research papers published every year on its various applications.
These include accelerating research into cancers, mental illness, potential animal to human organ transplants, better food production, eliminating malaria-carrying mosquitoes and saving animals from disease.
Charpentier is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany and Doudna is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Both played a crucial role in demonstrating how
Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for her pioneering research in CRISPR gene editing. She is receiving the prize with Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin.
Doudna and Charpentier discovered that the CRISPR-Cas9 protein works as genetic scissors, which researchers can use to make changes to the DNA. Their research can contribute to new cancer therapies and represents a major advancement towards curing genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease.
“Working on the project with Emmanuelle — once we understood how the CRISPR-Cas9 protein works as a programmable system in enzyme [and] in bacteria to cut DNA and that we could control where it cuts DNA by changing its little molecular zip code that directs it to particular sequences — that’s when we really understood that this had the potential to be
When Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier embarked on the project that would change science and medicine in incalculable ways, their intentions were much more muted. Theirs was a basic research inquiry into bacterial immune systems, not an attempt to develop a new tool to manipulate the genetic code.
Yet their discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 editing complex, recognized Wednesday with the Nobel Prize in chemistry, has ignited what even scientists allergic to hyperbole routinely call a revolution in how science is conducted. Researchers and companies are regularly discovering new applications in agriculture, diagnostics, and therapeutic development.
CRISPR gene editing promises to revolutionize medical science, and two of its pioneers are getting a prestigious award for their efforts. Emmanuelle Charpentier (shown at left) and Jennifer Doudna (right) have received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in discovering the CRISPR/Cas9 “genetic scissors” used to cut DNA. Charpentier found the key tracrRNA molecule that bacteria use to cut and disable viruses, and collaborated with RNA expert Doudna to eventually ‘reprogram’ the scissors to cut any DNA molecule at a specific point, making the gene editing method viable.
As with some scientific discoveries, there’s some controversy. While the team including Charpentier and Doudna published its work in June 2012, seven months before a Broad Institute-led group released its own findings, it didn’t include certain aspects Broad used when it started patenting gene editing methods in 2014. That led to a patent battle that’s still raging today, with
They discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and micro-organisms with extremely high precision.
Before announcing the winners on Wednesday, Göran K. Hansson, secretary-general for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said that this year’s prize was about “rewriting the code of life.”
The CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tools have revolutionized the molecular life sciences, brought new opportunities for plant breeding, are contributing to innovative cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true, according to a press release from the Nobel committee.