CRISPR-Cas9 is the gene-editing breakthrough technology that led to emerging innovations like more productive crops, a shape-shifting material that could help diagnose disease and deliver targeted medications, and even a novel treatment to restore sight to a blind person.

This technology allows scientists to alter an organism’s DNA in a way that is significantly easier than previous methods, making it more accessible to researchers. The versatility, precision, and untapped potential of CRISPR has continued to generate a buzz in the scientific community.

Even high school students will soon be able to experiment with CRISPR technology through a new unit under development through a partnership with Lab-Aids, and UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science and Innovative Genomics Institute.

Strengthen Genetics Lessons with CRISPR Curriculum

Through this novel science curriculum kit—which includes a combination of videos, articles, and engaging hands-on activities—students will learn how the CRISPR technology works, understand the possible applications to treat genetic disorders like sickle cell disease, and discuss the ethics of gene editing.

Using a specialty tool created just for this biology science kit, students will be able to precisely edit genes in E. coli bacteria using the CRISPR technology. The unit will emphasize the relationship between genes, proteins, and traits, making this curriculum ideal as either an introduction to the topic or as a way to reinforce the concepts through a CRISPR lens.

The Lawrence Hall of Science and Lab-Aids have had a long-standing partnership developing full-year science curriculum for middle and high school classrooms with the Lawrence’s SEPUP curriculum team. Like their other instructional materials, the high school CRISPR unit will focus heavily on the applications and ethics of science in real-world issues using hands-on investigations. Currently undergoing national field testing, this week-long high school science kit is slated for release in November of 2021 and will be available through Lab-Aids.

CRISPR in the Public Eye

While the science behind CRISPR had been studied since the 1990s, it wasn’t until 2012 that the field exploded in popularity when researchers were able to demonstrate the ability of the CRISPR-Cas9 “genetic scissors” to cut DNA at precise locations determined by scientists.

UC Berkeley has a longstanding reputation as a leader in biosciences and technology including innovations in gene editing. Jennifer Doudna, a professor at UC Berkeley, won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on developing the CRISPR gene-editing tool with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, a biochemist and founder of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin. Doudna founded the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) in 2014, which has made pioneering advances in the application of CRISPR to human health and sustainable agriculture. In addition to its world-class research, the IGI has established a robust education and outreach program that specializes in informing audiences about CRISPR, genome editing, and the ethical implications of genetic engineering through apps, courses, events, and other resources 

Globally, it’s been a banner year for advances in CRISPR technology and its applications. Some of the first patients to get a CRISPR-driven gene-editing treatment for sickle cell disease are doing exceptionally well, multiple advances in engineering disease-resistant livestock were announced, and an array of new diagnostic tools using CRISPR are under development.

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