In a matter of years, CRISPR has gone from a relatively unknown bacterial defense system to the superhero of genome-editing technology. Every day, scientists are imagining and creating new ways to use it that sound like the stuff of science fiction. We are only beginning to understand the power that CRISPR holds to transform the biomedical sciences.
CRISPR is a family of DNA sequences that play an important role in bacterial immunity. In their native bacteria, CRISPR sequences work together with proteins to sniff out dangerous DNA from viral invaders. Once this viral DNA is detected by CRISPR, the DNA can be cut out and destroyed.
Researchers have worked to harness the incredible accuracy and efficiency of CRISPR to improve biomedical research. We have already seen the potential of CRISPR to target, remove, and change specific sequences with high fidelity. Scientists are now developing a "toolkit" that will allow us to rewrite genomes, learn about a cell's past, rapidly identify infections, and more. CRISPR's potential is limited only by scientists' imagination.