Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 9:30am to 10:30am
Four decades after the first direct manipulation of DNA by humans, genome engineering has suddenly become something you can do in your garage. The technology transforming the field is called CRISPR, for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” CRISPRs are scavenged DNA “spacers” that bacteria use to defend against viruses; today they are being harnessed in the lab as precise, efficient genome editors.
This year, MIT scientists used CRISPR to cure a rare liver disorder in mice. In July, George Church and colleagues launched a global conversation about the power of CRISPR to change the fate of whole species by driving genes into populations. Church sees gene drives as a powerful solution to disease-spreading and invasive pests and says a societal conversation about their use is urgently needed.