CRISPR – Changing DNA

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A book review of CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA by Yolanda Ridge

A book review of CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA by Yolanda Ridge

Stars: *****

Annick Press (2020)
Children’s Nonfiction/DNA
116 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. If it sounds complicated, it is—but it’s also one of the most powerful ways we can shape the future. And it’s poised to completely upend the way we think about science. Author Yolanda Ridge tackles this topic in a friendly and accessible tone, with two introductory chapters covering the basics of DNA and genetic modification before taking readers through the ways that this ground-breaking science could affect them by potentially: eliminating diseases like malaria and cancer, improving the stability of our food supply, and helping to manage conservation efforts for threatened animals and environments.

CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA

I had never heard of CRISPR and didn’t know much about gene editing before this book. I’ve always wanted to know more about genetic modification and other ways to change DNA and I LOVE reading children’s nonfiction to learn new things.

This was the perfect introduction to DNA modification and editing. It explained complex topics in mostly easy to understand language. Some may find it complicated still as it is a complex topic. I can’t say I fully understand it myself, but I have the basic idea.

What is CRISPR? Huh?

CRISPR has to do with a way to use repeating DNA sequences and CRISPR-associated proteins (cas proteins) to unwind the DNA and cut sections out or glue new sections in. That’s a very simplified version mind you. You’ll have to read the book to get it more.

DNA First

The book starts off by explaining what DNA is and how it works. This of course includes an explanation of the sex chromosomes too so a child reading this book should at least understand that a baby is made from the mother’s egg and the fathers sperm and gets genes from both of them. The book does not discuss what sex is or anything like that.

Age Recommendations

The book is recommend for ages 14 and up and I’d mostly agree because the topic is complicated. If your child is a strong reader and understands complex issues and knows how babies are made, than they should be fine, even if they aren’t 14.

The Rest of the Book

The next section explains the history of genetic engineering from the 1700s to 2012. CRISPR is explained with LOTS of illustrations. The difference between genetic engineering BEFORE CRISPR and what we can do now is explained. The other chapters cover all the possibilities we could accomplish using CRISPR techniques. The STOP, YIELD and GO sections help explain why and when we can or would be able to actually use CRISPR in these ways.

For example when they talk about using these techniques as a treatment for sickle cell anemia:

  • Yield talks about how scientists have successfully edited the gene in mice but we need to consider that an accident in the process could make things worse (like cause cancer).
  • Stop talks about it would be easier on patients with the disease if it was edited out of them while they are still an embryo. However editing genes in embryos is controversial. Many might not have a problem with editing out a disease but who decides what is a disease and what is a difference?
  • Go talks about how if we figure out how to use CRISPR for sickle cell anemia, we might be able to use it for other genetic conditions such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington’s Disease or Cystic Fibrosis.

Overall, another amazing book by my favourite children’s publisher, Annick Press.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.