Gene Editing is a technology that is increasingly impacting on society and our lives. What was hard to do became simple, and with that a host of new possibilities - and ethical issues - were unleashed.
In this dissertation I discuss the context of Gene Editing as a tool, and how it sits with other technologies. I argue that it's not a complete stand-alone technology, but rather that it completes 'the toolbox' that geneticists have been developing since the first cloning experiments in the 1970s.
Gene editing of mammalian cells and embryos using CRISPR-Cas9 was first achieved in 2013, and the first editing of non-viable human embryos was reported two years later with wide media coverage. While controversial in this respect, the technology has been widely and rapidly adopted for use in many other organisms. In this dissertation I explore this technological revolution from the inside of the world of biology, using objective bibliometric analyses in conjunction with interviews with the researchers involved. Though still in its infancy, I demonstrate that the technology is being used much more frequently and much more widely than the previous existing gene editing techniques, and explore the reasons for this. CRISPR is experienced by researchers as transformative because of its combined flexibility, reliability, ease of use, and low cost, comparable to the invention of the polymerase chain reaction in 1985. I argue that simple gene editing completes a genetic toolbox that researchers require for genetic studies, and that this is a significant event that deserves study both in its own right, and as an example of an incipient technological revolution. There is also evidence that the simplicity of CRISPR-Cas9 technology is democratising gene editing in comparison to earlier methodologies, in the sense that it is being used more widely.
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