A CRISPR New World

A CRISPR New World.

This is an original research article published in the Frontiers in Public Health on 22 May 2017 entitled A CRISPR New World: Attitudes In The Public Toward Innovations In Human Genetic Modification. With the advent of gene modification with the editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 becoming a reality and increasingly being used in the search for solutions to the world’s most debilitating diseases, we are still in the early stages in this experimental technology. CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are patterns of DNA sequences found in the genomes of bacteria and other microorganisms. If a virus threatens, the bacteria use the CRISPR immune system to identify and destroy the viral genome. Scientists have adapted this system to use in cells from animals and, now, humans. Cas9 is an enzyme that works like a pair of “molecular scissors”. A guide molecule is programmed to tell the enzyme exactly where to cut in the DNA sequence.

The article addresses public perceptions and attitudes to this research through an online survey of 2,493 respondents in the USA with diverse backgrounds. This is an important area of research, as it will inevitably inform policy decisions as and when advances are made concerning ethical repercussions.

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