What is CRISPR and How Does it Work?

DNA helix. Innovative technologies in the study of the human genome. Artificial intelligence in the medicine of the future. 3D illustration of a DNA molecule with a nanotech network


CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. This is a gene-editing technique which is also known as Cas 9. The world of science has been captivated by this revolutionized technology (Vidyasagar, 2018) because this is a cheaper, easier, and more efficient technique in comparison to previous technologies of modifying genes. 

  • CRISPR-Cas9 is an easier way to modify genes. The technology is allowing researchers to change DNA sequences to modify gene functions. 
  • Many of its applications include preventing and treating the spread of any disease, correcting genetic defects as well as improving crops (Vidyasagar, 2018). 

This technology was adopted from bacteria and archaea’s natural defense mechanisms (Khatri, 2019).

What is CRISPR and How Does it Work?
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

How Does CRISPR-Cas9 Work?

Scientists started with RNA, which is a molecule that reads information on DNA. Commonly, RNA finds its spot in the cell’s nucleus– the place where gene editing activity will take place. This will guide RNA to DNA’s precise spot, where a cut will be called for the protein Cas9. After that, it tresses onto the double beached DNA and will unzip it (Khatri, 2019).

This will let the RNA pair up with DNA’s some regions that it has targeted. Cas9 will snip DNA at this place. This is going to create a break into DNA molecule’s both strands. The cell repairs a break by sensing the problem. However, fixing a break may disable a gene. Instead, this repair may fix a mistake or insert a new gene. 

More commonly, cells repair a break in DNA by gluing DNA’s loose ends together.

  • Any mistake in the process can disable the gene, but that does not render it useless.
  • Scientists used to cut DNA with Cas9 to make mutations.
  • Even more, scientists can determine the role of protein as well by comparing both cells (with and without mutations).
  • The new mutation can help scientists in understanding genetic diseases. 

CRISPR can be used in humans effectively by disabling specific genes, for example, ones that play a vital role in inherited diseases (Khatri, 2019).

What is CRISPR and How Does it Work?
Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay

Final Thoughts:

Gene editing can be of great interest in the prevention and treatment of various human diseases. At the present time, most of the research on CRISPR or gene editing technology is done to understand using animal models and cells. However, scientists are still working to understand whether this gene editing technology is safe and ethical to use in people.


Khatri, Minesh. “What Is CRISPR? What Conditions Does It Treat?” WebMD, WebMD, 14 Oct. 2019, 

Vidyasagar, Aparna. “What Is CRISPR?” LiveScience, Purch, 21 Apr. 2018, 

“What Are Genome Editing and CRISPR-Cas9?: MedlinePlus Genetics.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Sept. 2020,

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