Here at STAT, we spend a lot of time trying to imagine — and render — the invisible. We’ve gone inside of a developing embryo. We’ve flown inside our mouths to show the bacterial tribes that take root there. We’ve traveled through time and space to bring back to life a hallowed surgical theater. We’ve followed sound waves through our inner ears into our brains.

Of all of these fantastic journeys, one of the hardest subjects to capture, visually, has been CRISPR. Others have tried to capture the essence of the powerful gene-editing technique with the use of analogies.

Above, you can find our latest visual attempt to wrangle the genetic complexities of CRISPR into lively, and hopefully enjoyable, two minutes.

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  • It was somewhat dissturbing to experience the difference between what CRIPSR actually is, and the engineering-oriented decription created in the video.
    CRISPR, for the public information, has its name from “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Plaindromic Repeats, which should identify the structure and imply the fact that it is made from nucleotides – and therefore DNA.

    It is NOT some product of engineering by humans, but those clustered repeats were found and their function discovered by science in organims descended from the most ancient of microorganisms.
    The fact that it electrochemically severs long sequences of DNA was thought to be a highly preserved method of dealing with infectious viruses, as the varying CRISPR segments are those that occur in viruses that snip and emplace virus genes tha tcause a cell to replicate viruses instead of needed cell components.
    Cas-9 – CRISPR associated [protein] 9, comes from a Streptococcus, not human engineering, but from a bacteria that uses CRISPR to remove such a viral parasitic piece of DNA.
    Proteins have very specific shapes allowing only very specific fits of other molecules, and Cas9 is an enzyme, a protein that had evolved to do snipping specific to a sequence of nucleic acids identified by the sequence contained within the palindromic sequence.
    A palindrome itself is mirrorlike sequence (think of madam, i’m adam, if you don’t know what a palindrome is).
    Using a sequence within the palindrome that is complementary to the one that is damaging to the cell, plus any desired instead.

    The exact methodology, how RNA and enzymes function, requires more molecular biology than is commonly taught , and descends into terminology used only within the discipline – as even CRISPR and Cas-9, admittedly are.
    However, this note is intended to de-glorify the most probably error – that humans somehow invented the method.
    We have made far less progress through engineering than is claimed, as engirneering itself merely USES some science, necessarily ignoring varaibles not always correcctly assessed as less- or insignificant, with later catastrophic failures.
    To describe CRIPSR, Cas-9 or cellular processes (or the many irrevocably linked processes through which change, develop, and evolution occur) in terms of inorganic building construction is a cognitive errors unwarranted, and more befuddling to the public, than are any of the actual sciences.

    Erratic and faulty analogy raises more confusion and misattribution than it removes.

  • Recalling a statement from Jurassic park the movie . The scientists discovered they could they never asked if they should .

  • I understand how this works. But we have 50-75 trillion cells with DNA. How do you choose which cells to apply the CRISPER technology to achieve a complete desired result?

    • THE process is admitted to be of controllable utility only in embryos. See cell differentiation, totipotency, pluripotency, stem cells, and related developmental biology to frame an accurate idea of its limits and applications.
      We can induce some stem cells, but the bodies of multicellular organisms such as ourselves are very complex systems, sensitive to any inducements recognized as foreign. And this recognition itself is a complex process/structure,. All exogenous intrusions perturb the, or any system in ways that cannot be completely described.
      So many independent inputs occur that there will alawys be unpredictability in outcome.
      Medicine merely tries to reduce the most lethal perturbations of systems so complex that we cannot comprehend such systems in any way to be regarded as complete.

  • Excellent visual synopis of CRISPR technology, but as is true throughout the history of science, knowledge and technologies outpace legal and ethical considerations. The application of these public shared methodologies in the scientific literature allow potential utilization for not just good, but nefarious, applications. Scientists and ethicists need to establish international regulatory guidelines before undereducated legislators jump in and disrupt advances that augur improved health for the born and unborn with genetic maladies.

  • Very good illustration, but I must say that it presents an overly optimistic picture of the potential for CRISPR. Coverage of the potential scientific “benefits” should also emphasize the darker side of CRISPR’s potential. Personally speaking, I am far more worried about the impact on human society of CRISPR abuses, because the scope of abuses–including those carried out in the name of “progress”–could spiral out of control very easily and very quickly.

  • Thank you! I have been reading about CRISPR and, as a layman, was struggling to understand the concept. This really helped!

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