Wednesday, August 3, 2016

How Far is too Far?

     The field of genetics is rapidly growing, and new thoughts are created nonstop in order to delve into the interests of scientists and their curious minds. One new idea is to inject cells into humans that have been modifications using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique. This could help solve numerous problems, including combating HIV and pioneering against cancer. The Chinese are the first to experiment with gene editing on humans, and will hopefully not be the last.
     But what is going too far? We know from previous experiences that going into certain parts of science can potentially lead to dangerous outcomes. Where did the atomic bomb come from? When did humans learn that certain gasses as used during the world wars have fatal effects? These ideas came from the dark corners of science. Is this another dark corner? It is mentioned in the article that if the wrong gene is modified, it could be extremely bad for the patient. The procedure could also have an inverse effect and start attacking the body. Even though I am really excited for the cancer and HIV patients with new hope, I am also wondering if this is the way to go. Some scientists even wonder if the Chinese are acting too fast without enough research and information, and worry about unforeseen consequences that could be avoided with a little more time spent looking at and developing the experiment [1].
     One question I had while reading the article was if scientists could learn to modify genes using other proteins to achieve more positive effects. Would certain genes have a less chance of failure or human error? It was mentioned in Genome Editing: Seven Facts About a Revolutionary Technology that another protein, Cpf1, could also work for editing genes [2]. That's like having the option to use spell check or a dictionary!
     I thought it was amazing that scientists thought of this idea. It reminds me of the vaccinations we get throughout the course of our lives, and how they help our bodies without much outside work from the patient. I remember from biology with Mrs. Cole that many diseases can be passed down from parents to children, and wonder if this could allow people with these illnesses to have babies without a worry of them getting sick. If so, this could be very good news for couples around the world. Overall, though this experiment may be a solution to many of our problems, I think it would be wise to proceed cautiously in case of an unforeseen error in the future. More research should be done in order to keep people safe and healthy.

Works Cited:
[1] D. Cyranoski. (2016, July 21). Chinese Scientists to Pioneer First Human CRISPR Trial. [Online]. Available: http://www.nature.com/news/chinese-scientists-to-pioneer-first-human-crispr-trial-1.20302?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews
[2] L. Odling-Smee, H. Ledford, S. Reardon. (2015, November 30). Genome Editing: Seven Facts About a Revolutionary Technology. [Online]. Available: http://www.nature.com/news/genome-editing-7-facts-about-a-revolutionary-technology-1.18869

2 comments:

  1. Wow, well written response! You got into most of what was important and interresting in my opinion. I agree, this could potentially end badly. Scary thought: if clinical trials go wrong, could or would someone want to make a bio weapon that would cause humans to kill themselves from the inside.
    Also you mention the possibility of immunity to HIV being passed down. Could the possibility of long term side effects also be passed down? This is such a scary but exciting experiment

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  2. The possibility for immunities to be passed down is actually a reality that scientists are already exploring. With what they call the Gene Drive (super sci-fi name) scientists can choose which genes, out of those available from the parents, they want to be passed to the child. The idea at present is to inoculate a group of wild mosquitoes with immunities to diseases such as Dengue, Malaria, and the Zika virus. And if we can find a genetic immunity to cancer, then the cure may very well be passed down from generation to generation with the help of the Gene Drive.

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