We’ve been hearing A LOT about so-called ‘gene editing’ and ‘CRISPR’ lately — and now there’s new developments on that front.
Scientists have developed a new gene-editing technology called ‘prime editing’ that could potentially correct up to 89% of genetic defects, including those that cause rare diseases like sickle cell anemia and Tay Sachs disease.
What are ‘Gene Editing’ and ‘CRISPR’?
Genome editing is the alteration (aka editing) of a selected DNA sequence in a living cell.
Gene editing technologies enable scientists to make changes to DNA, leading to changes in physical traits, like eye color, and disease risk. Scientists use different technologies to do this. These technologies act like scissors, cutting the DNA at a specific spot. Then scientists can remove, add, or replace the DNA where it was cut.
CRISPR is one of those technologies.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats) allows scientists to make changes to the DNA of living organisms more precisely and inexpensively than before.
Think of CRISPR as the “find and replace” function; however, CRISPR sometimes mis-recognizes a DNA sequence that is similar to the one it’s looking for and cuts in the wrong place, causing “off-target mutations.” Other times it might cut in the right place, but cause mistakes, or “indels,” where DNA is incorrectly inserted or deleted.
So in other words, it’s a work in progress — but a GREAT progress nonetheless.