Author: Jennifer A. Doudna
|A Crack in Creation (2017) is a book that tells the story of CRISPR and its role in a revolutionary method for editing genes. CRISPR is a tool that can permanently alter the code of life inside your body by making exact changes to DNA. It can also modify the principle of life inside the bodies of your children and their descendants.|
When life gives you bacterial genomes, sometimes you just let them do their thing. Bacteria have had CRISPRs—regions of repeated DNA—for a very long time. When the bacteria are stressed (like when infected with viruses), the CRISPRs produce RNA that latches onto the invader’s DNA and separates it from the rest of the cell’s genome. It’s like a molecular pair of scissors, snipping the offending virus out of the DNA. It never hurts to have a few extra pairs of scissors lying around.
CRISPR allows bacteria to fight off viruses that attack them by remembering them and shooting them if they return. So scientists took this discovery and realized that if it could recognize and snip out only the viruses (and not attack bacteria), they could use it to help cut out specific genes or memories in our DNA.
Still, while we understood what CRISPR could do in bacteria, scientists didn’t know how it worked in humans until last year. There was nothing else like it in our genetic code. Finally, an international team figured out that CRISPR works by using DNA as guideposts, using RNA like a search party to find and destroy invaders in our genome.
A Crack in Creation Key Points
CRISPR naturally happens in bacteria, but scientist researches to use it on humans
We humans could edit the genome of animals and plants for years. However, the editing process was complicated, and many people were concerned about messing up. But CRISPR came along and changed everything. Through CRISPR, we can easily cut and modify genes in plants and animals. The possibilities are endless- we can find cures for diseases, create more vital crops for farmers, and grow more productive livestock. The list goes on. And because of its ease of use, the possibilities are endless for humans.
The story of creation and the level of evolution are two sides of the same coin. Innovation means that something comes out of nothing. Change implies that something was created from nothing. The technology that promises to be a game-changer for everything from curing diseases to genetically engineering plants to creating sustainable biofuels — has been met with plenty of controversies. In A Crack in Creation, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about CRISPR.
Scientists have found a way to harness this process to develop new drugs for diseases such as cancer, HIV, and others. This helps to eliminate much of the need for animal testing and helps to speed up the drug development process by allowing them to test multiple drugs with various genetic make-ups on healthy human cells.
Gene editing is one of the critical applications in genetics
The prospect of possessing the power to control one’s genetic destiny is a powerful one, and it’s getting many people very excited. CRISPR has many practical applications in agriculture, from medical applications like curing hereditary diseases to real-life Jurassic Park scenarios.
CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. They are a series of identical sequences with a slight variation in their length (the more repeats, the more it is called a CRISPR), and they are found on the DNA of many living organisms. These are remains of the invasions made by viruses; they were integrated into the genes of these organisms and, over time, became helpful to them.
One frequent use of CRISPR is gene editing, and it has become one of the most critical things in genetic engineering. Using “DNA scissors” to cut out a specific section of DNA and replace it with another section of DNA can have applications in producing several products. The most immediate benefit of this new technique was the ability to edit genes in the quest to fight certain diseases. For example, CRISPR has been used in gene therapy to treat children with immune system problems. It has been used to produce cancer-fighting cells.
In theory, gene editing could also be used to improve everything from food, clothing, construction, and energy resources down to the microbes inside our bodies. The ethical implications are immense and far beyond that.
Gene editing requires more research because it raises many questions
People have always wanted but never could choose their baby’s gender and facial features. But even though that technology hasn’t existed, there was still a way for parents to modify these things.
Advanced gene editing technology seems capable of making anything possible, but it also carries a lot of weight and ethical questions. CRISPR can be used to modify human embryos and even modify an embryo’s gender. What are the implications of this technology? If we can change features like skin color, height, physical strength, and even how smart someone is, who will try to take advantage of it, and how far will they go before we stop them? In science, most would agree the answer is one or two generations. One generation would be enough time to figure out how something works, while two would give us time to see how long-term effects play out.
However, in reproductive science, these answers might not be so easy to find. We don’t know what will happen when our first set of CRISPR babies grows up. We don’t even know if the technology will stay safe for another generation. Someone might make one change that doesn’t have an immediate effect but causes the person many years later to have some side effects that require more surgeries or drug treatments. The time from research to an application is usually a lot shorter than it should be in reproductive science.
A Crack in Creation Quotes
“The power to control our species’ genetic future is awesome and terrifying. Deciding how to handle it may be the biggest challenge we have ever faced.” –Jennifer A. Doudna
“The disjunction between scientific consensus and public opinion on GMOs is disturbing, to say the least.” –Jennifer A. Doudna
A Crack in Creation Review
At the moment, it’s not clear whether gene editing is a medical breakthrough or over-hyped. On the one hand, those cases where we can use gene editing effectively could be life-changing for patients. On the other hand, there’s the question of how far we should go, but this book will give you in-depth information on CRISPR, and I would recommend it.
To whom would I recommend A Crack in Creation summary?
- Anyone who is a medical student.
- Anyone who wants to learn how genetic technology works.
- Those who want to know about CRISPR.