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CRISPR brings a multi-purpose tool into the genetics toolbox - Part I

One of the hottest new technologies in genomics has been around for a few years but is only now finding a place in applied science because it can be used to 'edit' a specific sequence. For instance in the past you could change the hair colour of a mouse in the lab, but it was a cumbersome genetic 'knockout' process. Now CRISPR can be used to change the hair colour relatively easily and make it a permanent part of future mouse generations.

This means it can be used to fix a harmful mutation or enhance a specific trait, and that has raised a host of ethical fears. We'll be looking at those issues in Part II but first we'll dig into the science of CRISPR.

Alex Ensminger, Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, likens the CRISPR technology to an all-in-one screwdriver for geneticists. The principles behind CRISPR were known a decade ago and in this podcast prepared by freelance broadcaster Don Hill, Dr. Ensminger says we've reached the stage where we can put that genetic screwdriver to use efficiently and cost effectively.

CRISPR brings a multi-purpose tool into the genetics toolbox - Part I

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