Year in review: Breakthrough gene editor sparks ethics debate | Science News

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Year in review: Breakthrough gene editor sparks ethics debate

Researchers use CRISPR to edit nonviable human embryos

7:04am, December 15, 2015

CUT AND PASTE  This year, the gene editing system CRISPR has opened the door to new scientific advancements — and ethical concerns. 

A revolutionary gene-editing technology made headlines this year as much for the ethical and societal issues it raised as for the scientific accomplishments it enabled.

CRISPR (pronounced crisper) burst on the scientific scene in 2012, when researchers transformed what had originally been identified as a rudimentary immune system in bacteria into one of the most powerful tools in molecular biology. Composed of RNA and an enzyme that slices up invading viruses, CRISPR allows researchers to edit nearly any gene in any organism much more precisely and efficiently than older methods.

Many people hope doctors will soon find a way to use the gene editor to fix mutations that cause genetic diseases, a boon for gene therapy. But that potential also comes with big concerns about the possibility of human germline

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