Now in its second decade, CRISPR genome editing technology is being used to revolutionize agriculture—just in time to help us adapt to climate change.
A decade has passed since the landmark paper by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier describing their Nobel Prize–winning research appeared in Science. The research, of course, was about the “genetic scissors” known as CRISPR. Over the past 10 years, improved versions of these scissors have been introduced by many researchers, and many gene-snipping applications have been explored. To date, the most prominent applications have been medical applications, such as therapies meant to treat patients with sickle-cell anemia.
But CRISPR is poised to make an even broader impact on the world. Far from being limited to modifying the genomes of human cells, CRISPR is quite capable of modifying the genomes of plant cells. Indeed, as Doudna explained in a recent interview on the Babbage podcast, the earliest practical CRISPR applications that will seize public attention will be in food and agriculture. She said, “The most widely impactful applications of CRISPR, for many of us, are going to be in the agricultural sector, at least in the near term.”
How is improving plant traits with CRISPR technology different from doing so with the conventional methods of genetic mutagenesis used in plant breeding?
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