exPLAIN Campaign: Genome Editing - Science & Us

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Genome Editing

So, what is genome editing? Genome editing is a specific technique that is used to modify DNA within a cell. Similar to scissors, it makes cuts at specific DNA sequences with enzymes. Your DNA and genes determines what makes you you. So by cutting at DNA sequences, you can add, remove, or alter DNA in the genome. As a result, genome editing can change the characteristics of a cell or organism.

For example, in humans, genome editing can target and change a specific gene so that humans are immune to HIV/AIDS. CRISPR is a great example of genome editing. This system cuts at the DNA to destroy invading viruses.

Let’s talk about how genome editing truly works. Genome editing uses an enzyme called an “engineered nuclease” which cuts the DNA sequence at a specific spot. Engineered nucleases are made up of two parts: a nuclease that cuts the DNA and a DNA-targeting part that finds the correct part of the sequence to cut. Think of the DNA-targeting part as a GPS. Like a GPS instructing you how to get to a location, the DNA-targeting part guides the nuclease to a specific place in the DNA sequence.

After this happens, the cell naturally repairs the cuts and the characteristics of a cell or organism are changed.