CRISPR-CAS9, contains two crucial molecules that allow it to change DNA. The first is an enzyme called CAS9, and it acts as a pair of molecular scissors, which can cut two strands of DNA at a specific location in the genome, and from that point onwards bits of DNA can be added and removed. The second part is a section of RNA, (gRNA-guide RNA), and it acts as a guide for the CAS9 to cut into the right parts of the genome. The gRNA, is designed to attach to a specific sequence, and forms complementary base pairs, to the target DNA. The gRNA will only bind to the target sequence. This tells the CAS9 where it needs to cut. The process forces an induced mutation which is the target. CRISPR-CAS9 was derived from a bacteria that is found in yoghurt, and has a editing system similar to it. CRISPR-CAS9 is currently the most reliable system for editing genes, and shows a lot of promise, due to its potential it has,credited with the likelihood of treating genetic based diseases, such as cancer or alzheimer's.
However a debate is raging on whether they should part from somatic gene editing (non reproductive cells) and move towards germline (reproductive cells) editing. Germline editing is highly controversial as the effects on the offspring are unknown, but germline editing means whatever change is made in germline cells, will be passed on from generation to generation. This form of gene editing is banned in every country, until recently when UK scientists, were allowed to edit genes, but not allowed for the embryo to become living. US scientists recently backed geen editing but have sent out a stern warning against designer babies, due to the ethical dilemma they present and what impact they can have on society. Top US scientists in this field have said that the technology is not in its prime and is not safe enough to be tested on germline.
In America the US patent office has ruled in a dispute over the invention of CRISPR-CAS9, and kept the controversial patents issued to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT(STAT). Despite this, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle of the University of California, published the first paper on CRISPR-CAS9. The scientific community has acclaimed them as the pioneers of the technology. The has allowed both patents to stand, due to STAT claiming they wrote a paper on how CRISPR-CAS9 can be used in eukaryotic cells. The verdict of the patent office, will have an impact on both licensing of the technique for medical use and the recognition of the pioneers of the technology.