Genome editing is a process where an organism’s DNA can be changed. The technologies developed for genome editing allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9) is a type of gene editing technology.
The CRISPR-Cas9 system works when a small piece of RNA is created with a short “guide” sequence that attaches (binds) to a specific target sequence of DNA in the genome. The RNA fragment is also bound to the Cas9 enzyme. The modified RNA fragment acts as a delivery system for the Cas9 enzyme, recognizes a specific DNA sequence, and the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at the targeted location. Although Cas9 is the enzyme that is used most often, other enzymes (for example Cpf1) can also be used. Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell’s own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or to make changes to the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customised DNA sequence.
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