What is CRISPR, the powerful genome-editing tool?


CRISPR is a powerful tool for editing genomes, meaning it allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. It has many potential applications, including correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases, and improving the growth and resilience of crops. However, despite its promise, the technology also raises ethical concerns.  

In popular usage, “CRISPR” (pronounced “crisper”) is shorthand for “CRISPR-Cas9.” CRISPRs are specialized stretches of DNA, and the protein Cas9 — where Cas stands for “CRISPR-associated” — is an enzyme that acts like a pair of molecular scissors, capable of cutting strands of DNA.


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