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How research on bacterial immune systems led to CRISPR

How research on bacterial immune systems led to CRISPR


♪MUSIC♪ DR. JENNIFER DOUDNA: CRISPR is a technology for changing the sequence of DNA in
cells in a precise fashion; to correct mutations that might
otherwise cause disease. So scientists can actually change
an individual base pair in the more than three billion base
pairs in a human cell. The fun thing about the CRISPR
technology for me is that this is a project that started off as
a basic science, curiosity driven project. It was a
collaboration between my lab and the lab of Emmanuelle
Charpentier. We teamed up to discover the function of the
protein Cas9 and how it acts to disrupt viral DNA in bacteria
that have a viral infection. We came to understand the way that
Cas9 is programmed by RNA molecules in bacteria to
recognize the specific DNA sequences and then make a break
in the DNA. We figured out that we could actually program Cas9
to cut any DNA sequence by redesigning the way the guide
RNA protein is being used in cells. That understanding really
led to the a-ha moment, realizing that this could
actually be a very powerful technology in animal and plant
cells. It’s very exciting because it’s going to enable a
lot of science to be done that was impossible to do in the
past. And this is both at the level of research and
applications. It stretches from human therapeutics to
agricultural applications to thinking about how do we make
better biofuels. One of the things that I think the whole
experience of the CRISPR work has underscored for me really is
the importance of basic research, you know the
importance of doing work that is not particularly aimed at any
particular result. But I do think there’s incredible value
in working on problems that are not necessarily designed to
create a technology or to cure a disease but are more about
understanding the world, about understanding the basic
activities that occur in cells. Because I think in that process,
we’ve seen over and over that you uncover things that could
never be anticipated or expected but turn out to be fundamentally
important to human health and human society. ♪MUSIC♪

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  1. or how do we make better humans

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