Today, those scientists can quickly destroy or edit a gene with a new technology called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat)/Cas9.
CRISPRs were interesting mainly to microbiologists until 2012 when a team figured out they could combine crRNA and tracrRNA into a single, artificial guide RNA, which they could then use to aim the DNA-slicing enzyme at a sequence of their choosing.
The implications were thrilling...
Amber Dance at PNAS has the history.
Core Concept: CRISPR gene editing by Amber Dance, PNAS vol. 112 no. 20, 6245–6246, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1503840112