New Hope for Eliminating Hereditary Diseases
CRISPR is a new genome editing tool that allows scientists to change and correct specific genes with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and flexibility. It is far better than older techniques for gene splicing and editing. A genome is the total amount of genetic information in the chromosomes of an organism, including its genes and DNA sequences. In humans, a copy of the entire genome is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.
CRISPR is a naturally occurring process that scientists observed beginning in the 1980’s. It is an ancient defense mechanism found in a wide range of bacteria. Scientists noticed a strange pattern in some bacterial genomes. One DNA sequence would be repeated over and over again, with unique sequences in between the repeats. They called this odd configuration “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”, or CRISPR.
Scientists realized the unique sequences in between the repeats matched the DNA of viruses that attack bacteria. CRISPR is one part of the bacteria’s immune system, which keeps bits of dangerous viruses around so it can recognize and defend against those viruses the next time they attack.
The second part of the defense mechanism is a set of enzymes called “Cas”(CRISPR associated proteins) which can precisely snip DNA.