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GUANGZHOU, April 7, 2016-- Associate Professor Huang Junjiu, also a gene-function researcher, makes experiments at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, April 2, 2016. In April of 2015, biologist Huang Junjiu published the first report of a human embryo with edited genes, sparking a global debate on the ethics of such research. In his study, Huang and his team used spare embryos from fertility clinics that could not progress to a live birth, and modified the gene, responsible for a kind of blood disorder, in the embryos. To accomplish the task, they adopted a powerful technique known as CRISPR-Cas9, which can be programmed to precisely alter DNA at specific sequences. (Xinhua/Lu Hanxin/Getty Images)

It’s such an innocuous name for such a mind-boggling tool, but the CRISPR gene editing technology has the potential to transform the face of modern medicine.

CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which will mean nothing to anyone without a Ph.D. in molecular biology. But the technology is built on the backs of worker proteins that have been designed to both fix and disable mutations in cellular DNA. It’s a breathtaking and elegant solution for anyone suffering from a genetic disease that works — analogously — like cutting and pasting a page in a book.  

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