Gene Editing Breakthrough Fuels Colorado Research, Begs Ethics Issues

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Photo. Dr. Tom Cech
Dr. Tom Cech with student Natasha Powell at the BioFronteirs Lab at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Powell assisted Dr. Cech on a research project that used CRISPR-CAS9 to study the relationship between gene mutations and certain cancers.

CRISPR earned Science Magazine's award for the 2015 breakthrough of the year. And no, CRISPR isn't some kind of chicken fryer for your kitchen. It's a gene-editing technique that earned the award because it's far cheaper, faster and more precise than other genetic engineering methods.

The development comes with some cautious, but also has scientists giddy with excitement. Dr. Tom Cech is among them. He won a Nobel Prize and leads the BioFrontiers Institute at CU Boulder. He hopes to harness CRISPR to develop new ways to diagnose cancer. Cech spoke with Colorado Matters host Andrea Dukakis about the promises and dangers of the breakthrough.