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Gene Editing Is Now Cheap and Easy, and No One Is Prepared for the Consequences, by Vivek Wadhwa


Stashed in: Science!, Ethics, Consequences, Singularity!

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The DNA of every single organism — every plant, every animal, every bacterium — is now fair game for genetic manipulation

We are entering an age of backyard synthetic biology that should worry everybody. And it is coming about because of CRISPRs: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.

Discovered by scientists only a few years ago, CRISPRs are elements of an ancient system that protects bacteria and other single-celled organisms from viruses, acquiring immunity to them by incorporating genetic elements from the virus invaders. CRISPRs evolved over millions of years to trim pieces of genetic information from one genome and insert it into another. And this bacterial antiviral defense serves as an astonishingly cheap, simple, elegant way to quickly edit the DNA of any organism in the lab.

Until recently, editing DNA required sophisticated labs, years of experience, and many thousands of dollars. The use of CRISPRs has changed all that. CRISPRs work by using an enzyme — Cas9 — that homes in on a specific location in a strand of DNA. The process then edits the DNA to either remove unwanted sequences or insert payload sequences. CRISPRs use an RNA molecule as a guide to the DNA target.  To set up a CRISPR editing capability, a lab only needs to order an RNA fragment (costing about $10) and purchase off-the-shelf chemicals and enzymes for $30 or less.

Because CRISPR is cheap and easy to use, it has both revolutionized and democratized genetic research. Hundreds, if not thousands, of labs are now experimenting with CRISPR-based editing projects. A race is on between the major research institutions to file CRISPR-technique patents. Research dollars, both public and private, are pouring into CRISPR projects.

So having been rejected from the women-in-tech movement, now Wadhwa has moved on to CRISPR?!?!

Yes, he's always looking for a parade to get in front of. 

Doogie Howser found on that page:

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