By now you’ve probably heard of CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that has made headlines for its unprecedented ability to edit DNA with relative ease. It’s the subject of a new documentary called “Human Nature” and was featured in the Netflix series “Unnatural Selection,” which was released this year. It also played a central role in the 2018 science fiction movie “Rampage” featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Hailed as one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the decade — and most likely, the century — CRISPR has the potential to change humans and our environment forever. It’s being used to fight cancer and genetic diseases, develop faster diagnostic tests, improve the animals we eat, and protect crops against disease and rising global temperatures. And all of it is happening at breakneck speed. It can be hard to keep up with all of these advances, so we’ve compiled a list of the most important gene-editing stories of 2019 to get you up to speed.
Astronauts used CRISPR in space for the first time
On May 4, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Among its cargo was an experiment involving the CRISPR gene-editing system, which astronauts aboard the ISS used to successfully edit DNA in space. They made targeted cuts to the yeast genome that mimicked genetic damage caused by cosmic radiation, one of the biggest health risks that long-term spaceflight poses to humans. Cells have natural ways of correcting DNA damage, and the scientists behind the experiment wanted to investigate how those mechanisms are different in microgravity. They say the ISS experiment could yield clues about how cells repair their DNA in space.
Some imagine that gene-editing techniques like CRISPR could be used to make humans more fit for space travel.
Some imagine that gene-editing techniques like CRISPR could be used to make humans more fit for space travel. In one government-funded project, researchers are using CRISPR to see whether gene expression could be…