A controversial tool that lets scientists rewrite DNA just achieved a major milestone

2015 was undoubtedly the year CRISPR took over the minds and hearts of science lovers everywhere. 

On Thursday, Science Magazine announced the gene-editing technique won its Breakthrough of the Year Award, beating out other events such as the discovery of Homo Naledi, a previously unknown ancestor to humans and the Pluto flyby, which allowed scientists to get an up-close view of Pluto and its moons for the first time ever.

Science’s John Travis explained that although CRISPR has been a runner-up for the award in past years, “this is the year it broke away from the pack, revealing its true power in a series of spectacular achievements.”

CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool that allows scientists to swap a particular, potentially faulty gene with another, potentially healthy one. It sets itself apart from other gene-editing techniques, Travis said, because it’s so relatively easy and inexpensive to use. 

This year, scientists used CRISPR to modify genes in pigs to make their organs viable for transplants into humans, and to make super muscly beagles

Here’s a video announcing all the runner-ups and the winner:

Learn more about CRISPR and why 2015 was such a big year for the gene-editing technique.

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

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