The CRISPR Quake Shaking Us All

Discoveries affect medicine, ag, and just about everything 

In this week’s Friday Notes, we featured the gene-editing tool that is taking over news media headlines as our lead story–CRISPR. A university student visiting our office summed up the gene editing buzz quite well: “At first I thought CRISPR referred to a drawer in the refrigerator used to keep lettuce fresh. Now I realize it is a widespread scientific phenomenon.” 

The general public is quickly learning about CRISPR–CAST has been reporting about this “genetic earthquake” for years. Several items this week provide a solid overview and some new insights into this scientific game changer: 
This Sixty Minutes video focuses on the medical angles, and this “overtime segment” looks at some of the controversies. These researchers hope this tool can be key to treating genetic diseases–believing “this just might be the most consequential discovery in biomedicine this century”. 
In a different Sixty Minutes segment, these researcher explain how they have been using this tool to construct a simplified testing method that could be used to detect infections or viruses such as Zika and Dengue. 
This article provides an overview with a look at why “every industry is throwing mad money at CRISPR”. It covers everything we need to know about how scientists can repurpose a bacterial immune systems to alter DNA–making everything from cheap insulin to extra starchy corn. 
This Iowa State University student-produced video includes interviews with experts–including Alison Van Eenennaam and Mark Lynas–as it looks at techniques, regulations, and acceptance. You can learn even more about Van Eenennaam in this article as she explains why she isn’t going to let fear-mongers dominate the CRISPR conversation.  
Note: A new CAST Issue Paper, Genome Editing in Agriculture–Methods, Applications, and Governance, will roll out this summer.

By: Dan Gogerty and Kylie Peterson (graphic at top from

Help Support CAST

Your donation to CAST helps support the CAST mission of communicating science to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber and fuel for a growing population. Every gift, no matter the size, is appreciated.