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Feng Zhang: Editing DNA

Harvard scientist developed a system to easily and precisely edit genomes

By
10:46am, September 22, 2015
Feng Zhang in his laboratory

Harvard scientist Feng Zhang is exploring autism spectrum disorders and other brain ailments.

Feng Zhang, 33
MIT | Synthetic Biology
Graduate school: Stanford

Like every other 12-year-old who saw the movie Jurassic Park, Feng Zhang was awestruck by the dinosaurs. He was even more amazed by the power of molecular biology.

Now, two decades later, Zhang has developed tools to harness some of that power by controlling cells for specific purposes. As a graduate student at Stanford, he found ways to insert the gene of a light-sensitive protein found in algae into nerve cells.

The method, now part of the field known as optogenetics, made it possible to control brain cells in mice with laser light. More recently, Zhang has developed a system to easily and precisely “edit” genomes.

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