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Everything you need to know about why CRISPR is such a hot technology


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Genetic engineering? Yep, and we knew it was coming. So what is possible? It seems everything and investors are throwing money at the companies with some real gene splicing capabilities. Lots of money.




"In just the past nine months, venture capitalists have plunked down more than $200 million in start-up companies developing an innovative gene-editing technology known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats). In 2014, MIT Technology Review touted this gene-editing technology as “the biggest biotech discovery of the century.”


At the very least, CRISPR (more formally known as CRISP-Cas9) is the most important innovation in the synthetic biology space in nearly 30 years. Measured against any benchmark — such as the number of patents and scientific publications or the amount of government funding and private sector funding – interest in CRISPR has skyrocketed since 2013.


What CRISPR enables, say its proponents, is a quick, easy and effective way to edit the genes of any species – including humans. Other methods take months or years, while CRISPR speeds that time up to mere weeks. The ability to cut and splice genes so quickly and so precisely has potential applications for the ability to create new biofuels, materials, drugs and foods within much shorter time frames at a relatively low cost.


In a nutshell, CRISPR is a synthetic biology technique that takes advantage of the sophisticated immune systems of bacteria. Researchers essentially trick bacteria into cutting strands of DNA at a precise spot, where they can then replace, change or disable a gene. While scientific research into the CRISPR microbial defense mechanism dates back to the late 1980s, it was not until 2012 that the immense genetic implications became clear.


CRISPR essentially enables researchers to edit the DNA of any species at a precise location. Once you can locate the “interspacers” (the I in CRISPR) separating the “palindromic repeats” (the P and R in CRISPR), you can cut and change genes nearly anywhere in the genome. In the most exciting scenario, CRISPR would make it possible to treat genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and muscular dystrophy.


In one controversial scenario, it might be theoretically possible to alter the genetic material that controls hereditary characteristics, not just the genetic material of somatic cells. At some point, fear researchers, it might be possible to control the specific traits that we pass on to our offspring by tinkering with the genes in a human embryo. That’s the classic “Frankenbabies” scenario, in which tinkering with a few genes to create a “designer baby” leads to a whole host of irreversible genetic consequences.


That’s not just science fiction. Earlier this year, Chinese researchers showed how CRISPR techniques might be theoretically possible to utilize on a non-viable human embryo – and set off a firestorm of debate about the ethics involved. Mainstream scientific publications refused to publish the results, citing ethical and safety concerns about creating genetically modified humans."


There is a lot more and a whole bunch of links to web hubs for the main companies and more layman explanations as well as the bio folks info, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2015/11/04/everything-you-need-to-know-about-why-crispr-is-such-a-hot-technology/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_innov


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