CRISPR: Boon to Humanity or Doom to Humanity?
[caption id="attachment_584" align="aligncenter" width="192"] Image source nature.com[/caption] CRISPR is something everyone should begin to understand and to debate the consequences. CRISPR has its origins from how bacteria protect themselves from viral infection, it is their immune response. It is a 2-part compound that can bind to the DNA sequence of a gene, and then cut the double-helix DNA strands by using an enzyme called Cas9. For me, CRISPR is the molecular equivalent of the invention of dynamite. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite with only thoughts of how helpful it would be to the world. We know it produces both benefits and harm, it depends on how it is used. But we named the Nobel Peace prize after Alfred to denote his work. CRISPR is a technique that allows very precise editing of genes. Any gene. CRISPR makes it easier than ever. The possibilities are amazing to contemplate. Fix genetic defects, edit out genes that cause disease, replace one part of a gene with another. The downside? Designer babies. Want a son that will be an NFL star? Put in genes for bigger muscles, larger heart and lungs, thicker skull to prevent concussions, etc. And if GMOs bother you, well, better hang on. CRISPR could potentially be a way of permanently modifying the genome of foods, insects, and animals and those changes will be perpetuated in future generations. I am not an alarmist, I don't buy into conspiracy theories and I try to see the best in everything. But NIH has stated they will not fund any research involving CRISPR with human embryos. But that won't stop private organizations and businesses, pharmaceuticals, and other countries from experimentation. The Chinese have already used CRISPR in human embryos (though modified as to not grow). When they did, they found what they called "off-target consequences" meaning there were changes produced that were not expected, basically, "Oops!". These same scientists then issued a cautionary statement basically saying that maybe the technology is moving too fast. Educate yourselves now. There are many articles online that give layman descriptions of CRISPR. Here are some links that may help your understanding: http://www.nature.com/news/enzyme-tweak-boosts-precision-of-crispr-genome-edits-1.19114 http://gizmodo.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about... http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-the-disruptor-1.17673 http://www.wired.com/2015/07/crispr-dna-editing-2/