In late November, it was hard to miss the shocking claim that a Chinese researcher used CRISPR, a relatively new gene-editing technique, on twin baby girls while in the embryonic state. According to the Associated Press, the researcher, He Jiankui, said his goal “was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have—an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”
The procedure was quickly denounced by many scientists as unsafe and unethical, with the potential to harm not only the girls’ genes, but also their offspring. Many articles on the subject followed, debating the ethics and safety of the work. Adding to the controversy is that the research has yet to be verified in a peer-reviewed journal.
But how did we get here? What is CRISPR and its intended use? For people who want a little more background on this groundbreaking technique, and its importance beyond the latest headlines, we invite you read our new briefing paper on CRISPR and its use in neuroscience—both as a research tool and, potentially, a treatment for brain-related disorders.