Gene editing technique could transform future

CRISPR – get to know this acronym. It’s good to know the name of something that could change your future.

Pronounced “crisper”, it is a biological system for altering DNA. Known as gene editing, this technology has the potential to change the lives of everyone and everything on the planet.

A bold statement but that is the considered view of many of the world’s leading geneticists and biochemists I’ve spoken to in recent months when working on my latest Panorama – Medicine’s Big Breakthrough: Editing Your Genes.

CRISPR was co-discovered in 2012 by molecular biologist Professor Jennifer Doudna whose team at Berkeley, University of California was studying how bacteria defend themselves against viral infection.

Prof Doudna and her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier are now among the world’s most influential scientists. The natural system they discovered can be used by biologists to make precise changes to any DNA.

She told me: “Since we published our work four years ago laboratories around the world have adopted this technology for applications in animals, plants, humans, fungi, other bacteria: essentially any kind of organism they are studying.”

Cancer target

There are several recently-formed biotech firms which are hoping to take CRISPR technology into the clinic.

They are working on the theory that CRISPR might be used to boost the function of the body’s T cells so that the immune system is better at recognising and killing cancer. Disorders of the blood and immune…

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