Illustration by Vasava

Groundbreaking discoveries have shaped the world as we know it. One thing to keep in mind is that hard work and dedication lead to a discovery. The “Eureka effect” (aha! moment or Eureka moment) that has strongly been associated with a scientific discovery in the collective imagination about what a scientist does.

The reality is close instead to continue experimentation, failure and then optimization of the experimental conditions until a final answer to a question can be given. Many times is also hard to predict the impact of any research. In the latest issue of Nature, Heidi Ledford describes the history of the gene editing system called CRISPR.

The genes are parts of the DNA present in each living cell. They dictate all the cellular functions, from birth to death. The gene is a sequence of nucleotides (namely adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). They are called “bases” and they are indeed the basis of our life. If you want to study the function of a gene, you can mutate its sequence, you can change an A into a T, G or C, and evaluate if this change corresponds to a phenotype of interest. There are a variety of possible ways to perform such changes, but still reaching specificity is a big challenge. CRISPR-cas9 recently received worldwide attention for its potential of direct targeting and manipulation of DNA sequences, in a number of different organisms and cell types, including human cells.

When a big wave of interest floods the scientific community, a few names of the principal investigators receive news coverage and notoriety, but still every discovery is supported and developed by a team of people, whose efforts can sometimes go overlooked. CRISPR-cas9 examples offered a great opportunity of visibility and leadership for many young scientists and their mentors shared and supported this pivotal discovery to do not shadow their collaborators. Check out the article to find out who are the people fostering this great scientific discovery of our time.

Ciro Zanca



(Heidi Ledford, Nature, Volume 535, July 2016 –