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Excitement for CRISPR

Reddit users asked dozens of questions about CRISPR gene editing of members of Jennifer Doudna's lab at the University of California, Berkeley, and of National Human Genome Research Institute officials.

In the 'Ask Me Anything' held on the science sub-Reddit, users asked about how CRISPR-based gene editing could be used to treat genetic disease, how far off such applications are, and ethical concerns such as whether such treatments would be widely available.

A member of the Doudna lab, Meredith, notes that CRISPR gene editing would best be applied to treat monogenic diseases, but before that can happen, the disease has to be well understood with a clearly known genetic mutation. She expects that diseases like sickle-cell anemia would be among the top targets. For diseases where mutations are currently known, she estimates that clinical applications could arise in between five years and 20 years.

Reddit users expressed concern, though, that when such treatments become available, they might not be accessible by all.

Doudna lab members noted that there are non-clinical applications for CRISPR as well, such as developing drought-resistant crops.