InfograPHiC

Genetic Scissors 
in Action

With the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, scientists can modify genes more easily than ever before—and do so with unprecedented accuracy. The technology opens up enormous opportunities and at the same time raises monumental ethical questions.

Text  Till Schröder  Illustration Laura Cattaneo

THE DISCOVERERS OF THE CRISPR/CAS9 METHOD,

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna,

 

copied a defensive trick they observed in bacteria for this technology. When bacteria are attacked by viruses, they save a part of the attacker’s DNA—like a type of “mug shot” known as gRNA—in a database: its CRISPR genetic sequence (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). If they are later attacked by the same virus again, the bacteria send out Cas9 proteins that identify the enemy DNA using the saved mug shot and destroy it by carving up its genome.

 

 

 WHAT’S POSSIBLE?