The genome editing technology ‘Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR, pronounced ‘crisper’)’, was in the news recently following a paper published in Nature by a team of scientists from the Francis Crick Institute, UK. The team of scientists used CRISPR–Cas9-mediated genome editing to reveal the role of a key gene in human embryos in the first few days of development. The outcome of this research provides a framework for future research that could give scientists the ability to have a better understanding of the biology of early human development.  

Genome editing provides scientists with the ability to change the DNA of different organisms, including plants, bacteria, and animals. Genome editing allows the insertion, deletion or replacement of DNA at a specific site in the genome of an organism or cell; which can lead to changes in physical traits and disease risk.

CRISPR-Cas9 which was developed in 2009, is one of the recently developed genome editing techniques. Compared to the older methods of genome editing, CRISPR is simpler, cost-effective, highly efficient and produces more accurate results. CRISPR has the potential to be used as a tool for correcting genetic defects, and treating and preventing diseases. However, there are also ethical implications in the use of CRISPR, as it can be used to alter germline cells which will be passed on from generation to generation.