Geneticist Jennifer Doudna co-invented a groundbreaking new technology for editing genes, called CRISPR-Cas9. The tool allows scientists to make precise edits to DNA strands, which could lead to treatments for genetic diseases … but could also be used to create so-called “designer babies.” Doudna reviews how CRISPR-Cas9 works — and asks the scientific community to pause and discuss the ethics of this new tool.
Together with her colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umeå University in Sweden, Berkeley biologist Jennifer Doudna is at the center of one of today’s most-discussed science discoveries: a technology called CRISPR-Cas9 that allows human genome editing by adding or removing genetic material at will. This enables fighting genetic diseases (cutting out HIV, altering cancer cells) as well as, potentially, opening the road to “engineered humans.”
Because some applications of genetic manipulation can be inherited, Doudna and numerous colleagues have called for prudent use of the technology until the ethics and safety have been properly considered.