The discovery of the gene-editing technology CRISPR came, in fragment, from Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s very profound,” she told NBC News. “It means that we can control human evolution now.”
With collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, Doudna was able to harness a curiosity in the DNA of certain bacteria and attend turn CRISPR into the world’s most accessible gene-editing technology. The discovery is detailed in Doudna’s novel book titled “A Crack in Creation.”
The Dangers of Gene-Editing
In the book, Doudna says that the days of costly, complicated processes to edit DNA are over. We’re now in an age of CRISPR, and it’s a profoundly simple technique. Doudna compares CRISPR to word-processing software that allows someone to right a typo in a hefty document.
At the Innovative Genomics Institute in Berkeley where Doudna is executive director, teams of scientists are working to find novel approaches to treating disorders like cancer, sickle cell anemia, and some forms of blindness. But CRISPR isn’t limited to Doudna’s lab. Its low cost and ease of exercise own helped the technology proliferate to labs sum over the world.
At UT Southwestern in Dallas, Dr. Eric Olson is chasing a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. At an insectary at UC Irvine, Dr. Anthony James has created mosquitoes that can pass on malaria resistance to some of their offspring. At the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., CRISPR is being used to pursue a gene-engineered pig with transplantable human organs.
But with the thrill of discovering such a powerful tool came a somber realization. Doudna describes a nightmare: “Hitler was leaning forward and looking at me very intently. And he said, ‘So please reveal me approximately the CRISPR technology.’ And I just felt this chill running down my back.”
Doudna knows better than anyone that with the power to alter evolution comes a daunting responsibility: build certain it doesn’t collect misused.
This Gene-Editing Breakthrough Could Change Life on soil was originally published by NBC Universal Media, LLC on June 15, 2017 by Munir Atalla and Brenda Breslauer. Copyright 2017 NBC Universal Media, LLC. sum rights reserved.