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February 1, 2016

How research on bacterial immune systems led to CRISPR

CRISPR is a DNA editing tool that is currently revolutionizing the scientific world. CRISPR gives scientists and laboratories the ability to cut out malfunctioning DNA and replace it with functioning DNA. To do this, scientists must first program a specific RNA molecule and attach it to the protein Cas-9. When introduced to cells, this RNA/Cas-9 hybrid will seek out the malfunctioning DNA and cut it out, like a pair of molecular scissors. Scientists can then either insert the correct DNA, or the body can repair the cut itself.

CRISPR started as a basic research project in Jennifer Doudna's lab at University of California, Berkeley. With support from the National Science Foundation, she was studying how bacterial immune systems fight off invading viral DNA. Using this research, Doudna and her team, collaborating with Emmanuelle Charpentier, later created CRISPR, the world's most powerful DNA editing tool.

Learn more about CRISPR and the Innovative Genomics Initiative.

Original air date: Feb. 1, 2016

Credit: NSF

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