Epigenetics and CRISPR

February 1, 2017
Karen O’Malia Zauderer

Karen O’Malia Zauderer provided a presentation on two genetics-related topics:

1. Epigenetics, how your environment and your choices can influence your genetic code—and that of your kids. Evolutionary theory and Darwinian evolution argue that random mutations in DNA, resulting in selective advantage, drive evolutionary adaptation. Recently studies by Bygren and others “have given birth to a new science called epigenetics… the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to the genetic code but still get passed down to at least one successive generation. These patterns of gene expression are governed by the cellular material—the epigenome—that sits on top of the genome just outside it. It is these epigenetic ‘marks’ that tell your genes to switch on or off. It is through epigenetic marks that environmental factors like diet, stress and prenatal nutrition can make an imprint on genes that is passed from one generation to the next.”– Time, January 18, 2010.

2. CRISPR, a gene-editing technique that can “quickly and efficiently manipulate virtually any gene in any plant or animal. . . Researchers have used it to fix genetic diseases in animals, combat viruses, sterilize mosquitoes and prepare pig organs for human transplants.”—Science News, August 24, 2016. “CRISPR is a molecule that finds a string of DNA code, locks on and makes a precision cut.”—Cosmos, August 14, 2016. The technique holds promise for altering genes in every type of organism—to prevent the browning of mushrooms, excise HIV from human cells, increase milk production in cows, enhance flavor of tomatoes, re-introduce edited cells into multiple myeloma patients, etc.—Time, June 26, 2016. “Designer babies” become a possibility with CRISPR.