Imagine this: What if scientists had a tool that allowed them to edit genes directly, altering their underlying DNA? The science-fictional applications, like designer babies or Frankensteined organisms, would be obvious—although ethical and legal rules in science and medicine might prevent such uses. Immediate applications would be more mundane, but also more significant: understanding and treating disease, manufacturing new types of pharmaceuticals, and engineering more resilient foods, for starters.
There’s no need to imagine, actually. Such a tool does exist, and scientists have been refining it over the last decade or so. But despite massive hype in the science and general press, it probably remains unfamiliar or misunderstood to many people, especially those who don’t follow science news regularly. The reason might have to do with its terrible branding.