CRISPR technology has opened a new era of genome interrogation and genome engineering. Discovered in bacteria, where it protects against bacteriophage by cleaving foreign nucleic acid sequences, the CRISPR system has been repurposed as an adaptable tool for genome editing and multiple other applications. CRISPR's ease of use, precision, and versatility have led to its widespread adoption, accelerating biomedical research and discovery in human cells and model organisms. Here we review CRISPR-based tools and discuss how they are being applied to decode the genetic circuits that control immune function in health and disease. Genetic variation in immune cells can affect autoimmune disease risk, infectious disease pathogenesis, and cancer immunotherapies. CRISPR provides unprecedented opportunities for functional mechanistic studies of coding and noncoding genome sequence function in immunity. Finally, we discuss the potential of CRISPR technology to engineer synthetic cellular immunotherapies for a wide range of human diseases.
Keywords: CRISPR; autoimmunity; cancer immunotherapy; cell therapy; genetic circuits; genome engineering; immunity.