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Top Science Breakthrough of 2015: CRISPR Gene Editing

January 1, 2016

The top Science Breakthrough of the Year: A low-cost genetic engineering technique is creating both excitement and concern.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Cheap and easy genetic engineering.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The 2015 Science Breakthrough of the Year, as chosen by the editors of Science magazine, is a genetic engineering technique called CRISPR, that not only makes altering DNA easy, but allows those changes to move quickly through a population. Science magazine deputy news editor Robert Koontz says it could let scientists alter or even eliminate an entire species. This year, they altered malaria mosquitoes so they couldn’t carry the disease.

ROBERT KOONTZ (Science magazine):

They managed to get this thing to spread through the whole population of these malaria mosquitoes which were no longer malaria mosquitoes.

HIRSHON:

Scientists could also alter pig organs so they’re compatible with humans who need transplants or even eliminate disease-causing genes. But the technique’s power raises many ethical concerns, and Koontz says these will have to be addressed before CRISPR is used beyond the lab. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.