A CRISPR Human
Targeted Genome Modification of Disease
This interrupted case study tells the story of a woman with cystic fibrosis and her husband. The couple is presented with an opportunity to potentially fix the woman's disease-causing gene using CRISPR. Students follow the couple as they face decisions about her health and lifespan, as well as the health of any children they might have. The case is used to teach students about the genetics of cystic fibrosis, genome editing using CRISPR, and how to use CRISPR in the clinic or laboratory. The case also provides an opportunity for a discussion of bioethics, specifically pertaining to genome editing, "designer babies," and how genome editing should be paid for when it is used in humans. As such, it is appropriate for use with non-major students although originally designed for undergraduate biology majors in a sophomore-level cell and molecular biology course. It could be used in introductory biology courses, and it would also be suitable for upper-level biology courses, particularly if the instructor places more emphasis on the final part of the case study, which is focused on CRISPR design.
- Investigate the molecular cause of a genetic disease.
- Describe the structural and functional components of the CRISPR technology and how DNA repair mechanisms are employed by this new genome editing technology.
- Apply scientific knowledge to a discussion of bioethics.
- Gain practice working with and manipulating gene sequences in order to understand the difference between DNA, mRNA, cDNA, and protein sequences.
KeywordsCRISPR; Cas9; CRISPR-Cas9; CRISPR-Cas; cystic fibrosis; genetic modification; editing; bioethics; enzymes; DNA; RNA; designer baby
Topical AreasEthics, Regulatory issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision, Directed, Discussion, Flipped, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Biochemistry | Biotechnology | Cell Biology | Genetics / Heredity | Medicine (General) | Molecular Biology | Nursing |
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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
- Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9
A brief overview of the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing with excellent animations. Running time: 4:12 min. Produced by the McGovern Institute, 2014.
- How CRISPR Lets You Edit DNA
This TED-Ed animation by the author of this case study provides an introduction to CRISPR. Running time: 5:29 min. Produced by Andrea M. Henle and Adam Wells, 2019.