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Life gets better with CRISPR

Blaine Friedlander

Let us tell you about CRISPR, the newly discovered genetic editing tool.

Let us. CRISPR. Get it?

Let’s move on: Guillaume Lambert, assistant professor in applied and engineering physics, took a technical topic and clarified to local residents – mostly nonscientists – this fresh sensation in genetic research.

In his May 16 Science Cabaret talk, “The CRISPR Revolution: Building a Better Life Using Synthetic Biology,” Lambert illuminated synthetic biology and explained programmable bacteria “that will work for us … and we can teach it what we want,” he said.

Lambert held rapt the large crowd at Coltivare as he compared genes to interchangeable Lego parts. By using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), scientists can mix and match DNA/RNA segments to improve health and agriculture.

“For synthesizing DNA, it used to be very expensive just to create a gene; now it costs a few dollars,” Lambert said. “A lot of companies have improved this. You can go online and enter a genetic sequence and a company will synthesize it within days.”

Let us put CRISPR into perspective: Because of this new tool, the Zika virus, malaria and E. coli may soon find their way into medical history. Lambert quoted CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley: “We may be nearing the beginning of the end of genetic diseases.”

Blaine Friedlander