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How CRISPR lets you edit DNA - Andrea M. Henle


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From the smallest single-celled organism to the largest creatures on Earth, every living thing is defined by its genes. With recent advancements, scientists can change an organism’s fundamental features in record time using gene editing tools such as CRISPR. But where did this medical marvel come from and how does it work? Andrea M. Henle examines the science behind this new technology.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Researchers have studied CRISPR and its role in bacterial defense for well over a decade. However, the potential to use CRISPR for targeted genome editing first came to light in 2012-2013 when a series of articles were published in Science and Nature regarding the programmable nature of the cas9 enzyme in many cell types and organisms (1, 2, 3, 4). Since then, CRISPR has been used in laboratories worldwide to edit the DNA of virtually any organism. Several clinical trials which utilize this technology are currently in progress to combat cancer or HIV, or to lessen the burden of genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia (additional resource).

Further Exploration:
For an overview of the exciting potential of this technology, read this article and listen to these two Radiolab episodes (1, 2).To watch a TED video from Dr. Jennifer Doudna, one of the scientists who discovered the potential of CRISPR in genome editing, click here. To learn more about the molecular mechanism of CRISPR-Cas9, explore this interactive resource from HHMI BioInteractive. To watch a video about the history of genetic engineering and CRISPR, click here.To read more about how genome editing works and current issues in this area of research, please visit this website through the National Institutes of Health or read this article.Some of the ongoing regulatory and ethical issues surrounding CRISPR are discussed in news articles here, here, here, here, and here. Several articles/responses to the November 2018 controversy regarding the use of CRISPR in China to prevent HIV infection in babies can be found here, here, here, and here.For an interesting article about the use of CRISPR in the dairy industry, click here. To explore the molecular structure of cas proteins and CRISPR, click here to visit the educational portal of the protein data bank (PDB). To learn more about early research aimed at making Cas9 less error-prone, read here, here, and here. For educator case studies on the topic of CRISPR, visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science website. For a poster describing the molecular aspects and applications of CRISPR, click here.For scientific resources that describe how to use CRISPR in the laboratory, click here.For a fun parody video about CRISPR-Cas9 click here. For a collection of Nature articles on CRISPR, click here.Recommended books on this topic:A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution, Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. SternbergThe Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Andrea M. Henle
  • Director Adam Wells
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Animator Adam Wells
  • Composer Chris Reed
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Eleanor Nelsen
  • Fact-Checker Francisco Diez

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