CRISPR, the gene-editing tech that's making headlines, explained in one graphic

A startlingly simply method for cutting and pasting DNA has been making waves lately.

Scientists and policymakers are meeting in Washington, DC December 1-3 to debate the use of CRISPR/Cas9, a tool that makes it possible to make changes to an organism’s DNA almost as easily as cutting and pasting.

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. These are short sections of DNA found in bacteria that help them fight off viruses, but can be used to modify the genome of many other organisms. Using a protein called Cas9, the cell can cut out a piece of DNA and replace it with a piece of one’s choosing.

The technique has people excited for its potential to revolutionise our understanding of biology and help cure deadly genetic diseases.

Here’s how it works:

NOW WATCH: Watch science writer Carl Zimmer explain CRISPR in 90 seconds

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