CRISPR may have the potential to unravel the mysteries of autism, contribute to a cure for cancer, and remove the allergens from peanuts. In this week’s issue, Michael Specter investigates the revolutionary promise of the gene technology: Here, get an overview of the opportunities CRISPR presents.
  1. CRISPR is a strange cluster of DNA sequences that can recognize invading viruses, deploy a special enzyme to chop them into pieces, and use the viral shards that remained to form a rudimentary immune system.
  2. With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us.
  3. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed CRISPR to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis.
  4. “You can also use CRISPR to systematically study the ways that a cancer cell can escape from a treatment,” Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., said. “That should make it possible to build a comprehensive road map for cancer.”
  5. In laboratories, agricultural companies have already begun to use CRISPR to edit soybeans, rice, and potatoes in an effort to make them more nutritious and more resistant to drought. Scientists might even be able to edit allergens out of foods like peanuts.