| CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology has taken the research world by storm since its use in eukaryotes was first proposed in 2012. Publications describing advances in technology and new applications have continued at an unrelenting pace since that time. In this Review, we discuss the application of CRISPR/Cas9 for creating gene mutations — the application that initiated the current avalanche of interest — and new developments that have largely answered initial concerns about its specificity and ability to introduce new gene sequences. We discuss the new, diverse and rapidly growing adaptations of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique that enable activation, repression, multiplexing and gene screening. These developments have enabled researchers to create sophisticated tools for dissecting the function and inter-relatedness of genes, as well as noncoding regions of the genome, and to identify gene networks and noncoding regions that promote disease or confer disease susceptibility. These approaches are beginning to be used to interrogate complex and multilayered biological systems and to produce complex animal models of disease. CRISPR/Cas9 technology has enabled the application of new therapeutic approaches to treating disease in animal models, some of which are beginning to be seen in the first human clinical trials. We discuss the direct application of these techniques to rheumatic diseases, which are currently limited but are sure to increase rapidly in the near future.