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Home » Lesson Plan: Explore How CRISPR Is Revolutionizing Science – The New York Times

Lesson Plan: Explore How CRISPR Is Revolutionizing Science – The New York Times

Lesson Plan
In this lesson plan, students will learn about the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR and its implications.
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Featured Article: “CRISPR, 10 Years On: Learning to Rewrite the Code of Life” by Carl Zimmer
The gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, which turned 10 years old this year, has led to innovations in medicine, evolution and agriculture. However, it has also raised profound ethical questions about altering human DNA.
In this lesson, students will learn about how CRISPR works, how the field is changing science, and how scientists are wrestling with the ethical questions that this revolutionary technology raises.
Part I: Watch the video below about the original CRISPR system, known as CRISPR-Cas9. As you watch, try to gather information for these questions:
What is the CRISPR method?
What is Cas9?
How have scientists engineered the CRISPR-Cas9 system to cut and even replace any DNA sequence in animal or human genes?
Part II: The diagram below illustrates four steps in the gene-editing process:
1. Target the right gene.
2. Bind the target.
3. Cut the DNA.
4. Repair and edit the DNA.
Drawing on what you learned in the video, try to explain what occurs in each step of the CRISPR system. It might be helpful to work with a partner.
Part III: Before you read the featured article, write down any questions you still have about gene editing or its implications.
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. The article points to a number of ways that CRISPR is changing science. What do you think are the most important changes, and why?
2. Coming up with the CRISPR gene-editing method was revolutionary. In your own words, why is it so revolutionary?
3. “Did you CRISPR that?” The term CRISPR has become a verb in the scientific community. Can you think of something you might want to CRISPR? Why?
4. What are the shortcomings of CRISPR-Cas9? How might new versions of CRISPR address some of these limitations?
5. The article discusses thorny ethical questions that CRISPR raises. What questions are most concerning to you? Why?
1. Human Gene Editing: As CRISPR continues to improve, editing human embryos may eventually become a safe and effective treatment for a variety of diseases. Will it become acceptable, or even routine, to repair disease-causing genes in an embryo in the lab? What if parents wanted to insert traits that they found more desirable — like those related to height, eye color or intelligence?
What laws or criteria should international organizations, national governments and the scientific community enact to make sure that human gene editing remains a tool for public health, with an emphasis on safety, effectiveness and ethics? To learn more about the ethics and concerns about gene editing, read “Once Science Fiction, Gene Editing Is Now a Looming Reality.” Then, with a partner or small group, come up with a set of guidelines for research in human gene editing. You can compare your ideas with some of the guidelines and recommendations that have already been adopted by scientists and the World Health Organization. What should happen next?
2. The Many Uses of CRISPR: Ten years after Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier introduced their discovery of CRISPR, the gene-editing system has remained at the center of ambitious scientific projects and complicated ethical discussions. It continues to create avenues for exploration and reinvigorate old studies. Biochemists use it, and so do other scientists: entomologists, cardiologists, oncologists, zoologists, botanists.
The article “The Many Uses of CRISPR: Scientists Tell All” details six possibilities and ongoing projects involving CRISPR. Read about all six and then choose the research that interests you the most and explain why.
3. Prime editing: Rodolphe Barrangou, one of the scientists quoted in the article, predicted that prime editing would eventually become a part of the standard CRISPR toolbox. But for now, he said, the technique was still too complex to become widely used. Do some additional research on prime editing. How can it improve on the original CRISPR system? Do you think it will eventually become widely used? Why, or why not?
Find more lesson plans and teaching ideas here.
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