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CRISPR Cas-9, Gene Editing - The Real Non-Fiction Scoop!

Hey there, so I wanted to head off some comments about CRISPR, the gene editing tool that was mentioned in my latest book Crimson: Secrets and Lies of a Living Vampire, where It's implied by Dr. Owen Bennett that CRISPR came from vampires. In real life, it IS NOT. LOL. It's a natural gene sequence found in bacteria. (The name comes from Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.)

Who discovered CRISPR? Alexander Bolton (from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research) is credited for discovering CRISPR in bacteria. However, Jennifer Doudna is credited for the creation of the tool for editing CRISPR. She's an American biochemist. HOWEVER, no one works alone, and she had several other people credited alongside her for the discovery. (I believe there's still an ongoing patent lawsuit involving her and a few other scientists.)

What is CRISPR? Okay, so the mechanisms that make gene editing have actually been around for a very long time in bacteria. Bacteria's natural, built-in CRISPR, gene editing tool is a defense mechanism against viruses. The bacteria takes parts of the virus so that it can fight off future viral attacks with the virus' own DNA.

HOW DO WE EDIT GENES? DNA or genes are like a blueprint for every living thing on earth from single cell organisms to people. Ever since the discovery of DNA structure in 1954, we've worked to not only read DNA but tried unsuccessfully to change that necessary building code.

CRISPER works because of a few things that make it unique:

1. It has a sort of GPS to tell it where to go.

2. It has little scissors that snip out the piece to remove.

From there, we've learned how to either allow the removed part to regrow on its own, or we can replace those genes with different DNA.

The reason that gene editing is so exciting is that not only can we *hopefully remove the genes that cause cancer, and disease, but also replace even those genes that make us more susceptible to cancer or auto-immune problems.

The Debate: In order to fix certain genetic problems scientists will have to edit the germ line. This is a huge debate, because the germ line is DNA that's passed on to future offspring. This would change the DNA of our future generations. This raises questions as to how far we should take CRISPR, what are the ethical, and social ramifications.

CRISPR comes with a lot of speculation and worry for it's future use. For example, we could make our children smarter, stronger... pick thier hair color... maybe even make a human with a new skin color. The list goes on and on. People wonder if CRISPR is the next stage of human evolution, or are we toddlers playing with fire?

Personally, I think someone is going to do it whether it's legal or not. It's not a question of IF it's going to happen or not, it's a question of WHEN.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert in any way on CRISPR, I just wanted to share a little info because I find science fascinating, especially gene editing.

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