What is genome editing?
Genome editing is an advance in biological tools with the potential for a wide range of applications. Genome editing works much like editing text on a computer. First, a specific search is conducted within the organism’s genome (“text”) to locate the place were a specific change in the DNA sequence (“letters”) is desired. Then, the genome editing tool acts as biologic ‘scissors’ to ‘mark’ that place by cutting DNA between the “letters”. Finally, the desired DNA sequence (“letter”) changes are accomplished with the help of a natural process which relies on the cell’s own repair mechanism that can delete “letters” or “edit” them (substitute one letters for another). These changes to an organism’s own “letters” (DNA) result in a specific characteristic. This could be e.g. the correction of a malfunctional gene.
Many applications of genome editing produce organisms that could otherwise be found in nature or developed with traditional tools. Such organisms are “non-transgenic” – they do not contain “foreign” DNA – DNA from a different species. A significant advantage of genome editing is that now those changes can be achieved much more efficiently and in a targeted manner.