An Introduction to CRISPR Genome Engineering

All living creatures depend on DNA to provide instructions for development and function. Though DNA has been intensively studied since its discovery in the 1860s, it has mostly been considered inaccessible to human manipulation. However, over the past 20 years, scientists have developed new molecular tools that grant us the power to rewrite DNA in revolutionary ways.

Genome Engineering in a nutshell

Genetic Engineering is the process by which scientists can delete, add, or modify DNA sequences. Scientists use programmable DNA nucleases, like CRISPR, Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFN), or TALENs, sometimes referred to as "molecular scissors," to rewrite DNA. Though, there are limitations to the types and extent of "rewriting" one can do, programmable DNA nucleases are revolutionizing the face of modern medicine, agriculture, diagnostics, forensics, space exploration, and so much more. It’s no wonder that Dr. Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley, and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Max Plank Institute were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for their work with CRISPR genome engineering.

Watch the video of our founder, Dr. Kris, below to learn some ways that CRISPR is being applied to change the world:

Where did CRISPR come from?

Though genome engineering isn’t a new field, it has recently become much more efficient and user-friendly with the discovery of CRISPR. Today, we use the word CRISPR to define the genome engineering technology as a whole. However, when it was first discovered, before it became a technology, it was simply a puzzling repetitive sequence found in bacteria. The discovery of these repetitive sequences was made in 1987 by Yoshizumi Ishino and later Francisco Mojia who coined the term CRISPR to stand for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats; quite literally a descriptor of how these weird sequences in bact