The communication of genetic editing. CRISPR: Between optimism and false expectations


Communication is essential in all areas of society, but science is one of the inescapable keys. Communicating is sharing, showing, teaching, transferring discoveries, observations, and findings both to colleagues and to society in general. That’s why good communication must always accompany good science. CRISPR genetic editing tools allow us to modify at will the genome of any living organism, including our species. In this text I review different relevant communicative events in the short but intense life of these molecular scissors, so called for their ability to cut the DNA molecule effectively and with precision.


CRISPR; expectations; interpretation; uncertainty; science communication


  1. Cong, L., Ran, F. A., Cox, D., Lin, S., Barretto, R., Habib, N., … Zhang, F. (2013). Multiplex genome engineering using CRISPR/Cas systems. Science, 339(6121), 819–823. doi: 10.1126/science.1231143

  2. Egli, D., Zuccaro, M., Kosicki, M., Church, G., Bradley, A., & Jasin, M. (2017). Inter-homologue repair in fertilized human eggs? BioRxiv, 28 August 2017. doi: 10.1101/181255

  3. Fernández, A., Josa, S., & Montoliu, L. (2017). A history of genome editing in mammals. Mammalian Genome, 28(7–8), 237–246. doi: 10.1007/s00335-017-9699-2

  4. Gasiunas, G., Barrangou, R., Horvath, P., & Siksnys, V. (2012). Cas9-crRNA ribonucleoprotein complex mediates specific DNA cleavage for adaptive immunity in bacteria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 109(39), E2579–E2586. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208507109

  5. Iyer, V., Boroviak, K., Thomas, M., Doe, B., Ryder, E., & Adams, D. (2018). No unexpected CRISPR-Cas9 off-target activity revealed by trio sequencing of gene-edited mice. BioRxiv, 9 February 2018. doi: 10.1101/263129

  6. Jinek, M., Chylinski, K., Fonfara, I., Hauer, M., Doudna, J. A., & Charpentier, E. (2012). A programmable dual-RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity. Science, 337(6096), 816–821. doi: 10.1126/science.1225829

  7. Khin, N. C., Lowe, J. L., Jensen, L. M., & Burgio, G. (2017). No evidence for genome editing in mouse zygotes and HEK293T human cell line using the DNA-guided Natronobacterium gregoryi Argonaute (NgAgo). PLOS One, 12(6), e0178768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178768 

  8. Lander, E. S. (2016). The heroes of CRISPR. Cell, 164(1–2), 18–28. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.12.041

  9. Liang, P., Xu, Y., Zhang, X., Ding, C., Huang, R., Zhang, Z., … Huang, J. (2015). CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in human tripronuclear zygotes. Protein Cell, 6(5), 363–372. doi: 10.1007/s13238-015-0153-5

  10. Ma, H., Marti-Gutierrez, N., Park, S.-W., Wu, J., Lee, Y., Suzuki, K., … Mitalipov, S. (2017). Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos. Nature, 548(7668), 413–419. doi: 10.1038/nature23305

  11. Mali, P., Yang, L., Esvelt, K. M., Aach, J., Guell, M., DiCarlo, J. E., … Church, G. M. (2013). RNA-guided human genome engineering via Cas9. Science, 339(6121), 823–826. doi: 10.1126/science.1232033

  12. Mojica, F. J., Díez-Villaseñor, C., García-Martínez, J., & Soria, E. (2005). Intervening sequences of regularly spaced prokaryotic repeats derive from foreign genetic elements. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 60(2), 174–182. doi: 10.1007/s00239-004-0046-3 

  13. Mojica, F. J., & Montoliu, L. (2016). On the origin of CRISPR-Cas technology: From prokaryotes to mammals. Trends in Microbiology, 24(10), 811–820. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2016.06.005

  14. Nelson, C. E., Hakim, C. H., Ousterout, D. G., Thakore, P. I., Moreb, E. A., Castellanos-Rivera, R. M., … Gersbach, C. A. (2016). In vivo genome editing improves muscle function in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Science, 351(6271), 403–407. doi: 10.1126/science.aad5143

  15. Schaefer, K. A., Wu, W. H., Colgan, D. F., Tsang, S. H., Bassuk, A. G., & Mahajan, V. B. (2017). Unexpected mutations after CRISPR-Cas9 editing in vivo. Nature Methods, 14(6), 547–548. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4293

  16. Seruggia, D., Fernández, A., Cantero, M., Pelczar, P., & Montoliu, L. (2015). Functional validation of mouse tyrosinase non-coding regulatory DNA elements by CRISPR-Cas9-mediated mutagenesis. Nucleic Acids Research, 43(10), 4855–4867. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv375

  17. Smithies, O., Gregg, R. G., Boggs, S. S., Koralewski, M. A., & Kucherlapati, R. S. (1985). Insertion of DNA sequences into the human chromosomal beta-globin locus by homologous recombination. Nature, 317(6034), 230–234. doi: 10.1038/317230a0

  18. Su, S., Hu, B., Shao, J., Shen, B., Du, J., Du, Y., …, Liu, B. (2016). CRISPR-Cas9 mediated efficient PD-1 disruption on human primary T cells from cancer patients. Scientific Reports, 6, 20070. doi: 10.1038/srep20070

  19. Vence, T. (2016, 19 January). “Heroes of CRISPR” disputed. The Scientist. Retrieved from 45119/title/-Heroes-of-CRISPR--Disputed 

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License