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[CRISPR acronym defined via video animation]
It’s science’s POTENTIAL secret weapon for treating inherited diseases like , sickle cell anemia and muscular dystrophy.
To be specific — CRISPR uses a protein that cuts DNA. Basically, it edits your genes.
So, let’s say you want to fix some faulty DNA in a genome.
How does CRISPR work?
It’s a three-step process:
1) You tell CRISPR where the bad stuff is in the DNA.
2) CRISPR finds the bad stuff.
3) It starts cutting.
Wait… but how do you tell CRISPR where to cut?
You give it a guide molecule of RNA. These guide molecules are tiny (about 20 letters long, if you’re wondering), but that’s enough to point the CRISPR cutting protein to a specific location in the genome. Think of it like an itsy-bitsy tracking device.
Hold on — let’s go back. What happens after it finds the guide molecule?
We’ve got two options here:
Delete — Cut a gene with CRISPR, which can deactivate the bad gene.
Edit — CRISPR cuts, but now with a template for how to make a DNA repair. Here’s a suggestion, cell! After the repair, you’ve got a fresh, clean gene.
Hmmm. This seems pretty simple. Is CRISPR really such a big deal?
Yes, it most certainly is.
Consider sickle cell anemia. This disease causes crippling pain, organ failure, and premature death… all because of a single misspelled letter of DNA. Change that, and <poof>
Some scientists believe CRISPR could even be used to treat diseases like muscular dystrophy, and they’ve already cured mice this way.
OK, so getting the CRISPR ingredients into a human body isn’t going to be easy, but scientists are working on it.
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