Begin by having students brainstorm how understanding nature might help scientists create new technology. Introduce students to CRISPR by first reading the overview, “How to Hack DNA.” Students can use the overview and “How It Works In Nature” section to summarize how the process occurs naturally in bacteria.   

Next, write the steps for the scientific method on the board (make an observation, ask a question, form a hypothesis, make a prediction, test the prediction, and use the results to make new hypotheses). Ask: How might scientists have used the scientific method to develop CRISPR-Cas9 technology upon observing how CRISPR works in nature?  Encourage students to reference the infographic when formulating their answers. Use these questions to guide the discussion.

  • What is one hypothesis scientists might have proposed based on their observations?  (Student ideas may vary. They may hypothesize that CRISPR can cut DNA in human cells as well as bacterial cells, for example.)
  • How might scientists have tested this hypothesis? (For example, scientists can introduce Cas9 into human cells with a guide RNA to bring about a change in the gene.)
  • What variables would they use in their experiment? (A possible answer is the amount of Cas9 added to the cell.)

Then have students read through the rest of the infographic to learn how CRISPR is used in the lab and how it is applied to global issues. Finally, have students summarize what they have learned by discussing how scientists moved from observation to experiment to new invention using the scientific method.

 

Plural Noun

(singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

catalyze
Verb

to act upon or influence.

CRISPR
Noun

(CRISPR-Cas9) small, special sections of DNA found in prokaryotes (a group of bacteria and archaea) characterized by the Cas9 enzyme, which enables it to cut into strands of DNA. CRISPR has been utilized by scientists as a tool to edit the genes of other organisms.

DNA
Noun

(deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule in every living organism that contains specific genetic information on that organism.

enzyme
Noun

proteins produced in living cells that act as catalysts to accelerate the vital processes of an organism.

experiment
Verb

to try or test an idea.

gene
Noun

part of DNA that is the basic unit of heredity.

hypothesis
Noun

statement or suggestion that explains certain questions about certain facts. A hypothesis is tested to determine if it is accurate.

medicine
Noun

substance used for treating illness or disease.

protein
Noun

one of many complex compounds, made of chains of amino acids, that make up the majority of all cellular structures and are necessary for biological processes.

RNA
Noun

(ribonucleic acid) a form of nucleic acid that controls some types of chemical activities in the cell.

scientific method
Noun

method of research in which a question is asked, data are gathered, a hypothesis is made, and the hypothesis is tested.