CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing technique that can target and modify DNA with groundbreaking accuracy, is both the newest darling and the newest villain of genetics research. Invented in 2012 by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, CRISPR-Cas9 has received a lot of attention this year. Not only are scientists publishing reports on the technique at breakneck speed, but it also seems that each piece of news that comes out about CRISPR-Cas9 is grander and juicier than the last.
Recently scientists have announced that they have used the new technology to inhibit hepatitis C in human cells and to defy Mendel’s laws of inheritance, which have governed the field of genetics for over a century. Other highly-publicized attempts to eradicate a disease-causing gene in human embryos were met with limited success. The experiment, which constituted the first time scientists have reported trying to genetically engineer humans at the reproductive level, triggered concerns from an international community of scientists and ethicists.
Now, CRISPR-Cas9 research has reached the point where scientists are considering how the technology will fit into the future of mankind.