Ascribed diseases ranging from blindness to deafness have caused an inconvenience for many. However, with the innovation of gene editing, a possibility to eradicate this problem may find hope.
Introduction to CRISPR
Health infrastructure has often withstood the test of time. With a rise in diseases being met with the introduction of equally strong cures, medicine finds itself expanding at an extraordinary rate. One of the innovations that has changed the way we look at medicine, is the process of gene editing or CRISPR. This technology fosters the capability to correct possible errors in a DNA sequence.
CRISPR’s advancement has been exciting yet terrifying. Obtaining the ability to influence or change the genes of any individual opens up avenues of discomfort and risk. CRISPR requires accuracy and complete attention. The problem with such a complex procedure is that even one single error in a completely correct sequence can cause irreversible damage.
Ethics of gene editing
The Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing was an exciting event for science enthusiasts across the world. It introduced new therapies which could be conducted using CRISPR. With gene editing providing the possibility to edit hereditary diseases, a hope for a better future could be imagined.
However, all announcements were overshadowed by He Jiankui’s announcement. Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, mentioned that he had edited the genes of two human embryos and that they had been brought to term. The problem with such a procedure is that CRISPR is still too risky. While the possibility to rid the embryo of disease-causing mutations is present, the potential risks are much higher.
Gene editing in early human embryos can lead to unintended problems in the body, for example, certain types of cancer, allergic reaction or damage to organs or tissues if an injection is involved. Scientists also found out that in more than half of the cases involving gene editing, in human embryos, gene editing can lead to loss of an entire chromosome or big chunks of it.
Chromosomes are vital to our body functions. If a chromosome is lost, it can lead to severely delayed development of speech and walking, weak muscle tone, seizures, breathing problems and even distinctive face features. He Jiankui’s actions were condemned across the world. In his attempt to make the world’s first gene-edited babies he would’ve risked many lives. Eventually, his actions did land him in prison.
Consequences and possible forecasts
Gene editing has the possibility of curing several disease-causing mutations. However, this territory is still sensitive to be elaborated upon. Experiments are being conducted on the possibility of expanding gene-editing to further stages. The advancements, however, should be made carefully. He Jiankui’s attempts to use CRISPR were unethical and deserve condemnation.
But scientists who are trudging this ground ethically should be appreciated for their actions. CRISPR, as a technological tool, is still finding its ground on medical bases. The advancements and efforts being made may seem revolutionary but may end up being unsuccessful. While the entire process of gene-editing garners hope, it is important to remember the risks and skepticism that it willingly accompanies.