CRISPR has been something that everyone has been talking about lately for the past few years, it has been somewhat of a trending topic in terms of the success it has had from creating monkeys with targeted mutations to preventing HIV infection in human cells. In 2015, Chinese scientists announced they applied this technique to nonviable human embryos, and found that CRISPR has the potential to cure any genetic diseases. Moreover, it might even lead to the creation of designer babies.(Foe, 2014).
“The major factor that people are concerned about are the various kind of risks associated with the technology, the most significant being ‘off-target’ side effects”. (MARCUS, 2015) Although stem cell therapy treatment is considered to be one of the most promising upcoming technologies the main worry about CRISPR is the same worry we would have using any other gene therapy which is the “off- target” side effects as once this method is implemented into one’s body it may get into the cells that were not actually targeting and that could result in additional toxicity problems.(MARCUS, 2015) Therefore, the potential hazards of this technology is something that we should pay close attention to.(Otieno MO, 2015)
Could you for just one second imagine that there is a possibility of removing or editing a trait that is the cause of some fatal human disease and the fact that it could be done as easily as how we usually delete or edit a document when using Microsoft Word.(Basulto, 2015) However, all this just sounds too effortless to carry out and in fact, it is precisely that. People in the United States of America with basic knowledge in the field of science even have a DIY CRISPR kit in their homes however this makes you ask questions regarding this technology.(Zayner, 2015) If it ever fell into the hands of someone with wrong intentions that makes it another great area of concern. Bacteria grows really fast and has simple cellular structures, it is easy for anyone to prepare for it. The kit can perform specific edits to genes by using CRISPR, it allows the bacteria to survive on special growth media.(Zayner, 2015)
Do-it-yourself CRISPR genome editing kit for bacteria(Josiah Jayner, 2016)
Moreover, CRISPR germline editing technologies involve very high cost to the extent, which means that only people who are from developed countries or a good background in terms of monetary stance can afford it. Thus it would be unlikely for the undeveloped or still developing countries to afford the cost of this technology. Most of the expectations on the technology by scientists and articles are over optimistic as it will not benefit exactly everyone in the world.(Otieno MO, 2015)
Researchers have also been working on commodity crops that have been engineered by CRISPR. These crops will have traits such as being drought resistance which could be very crucial and important, especially to farmers who are dealing with changes in the climate. However, even with traits like drought resistance, it all depends on the environment that these crops are in terms of the hotness, precipitation, type of soils and so on. Furthermore, the genetic background of each crop will also influence the behavior of the genes in one way or another.(Montenegro, 2016)
Furthermore, most scientists only publish the successful cases and rarely publish about the times they failed which causes a lot of confusion whether we should believe in this emerging technology or not. Till today, it is still unclear if this gene editing technology will affect future generations positively. If scientists have not proven CRISPR’s efficacy and safety in animal models, no one should proceed with any sort of clinical trials. Chinese researchers who used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology had to stop research due to the discovery of unstable mutations in the genome.(Otieno MO, 2015) These mutations can be deleterious and off-target mutations may lead to transformation or even the death of the cell. For now, scientists have to find the way of applying gene editing only to the cells and tissues that they targeted, without affecting anything else. Scientists must not carry out trials any bigger than it needs to be in order to avoid people being exposed to any potential risks.(MARCUS, 2015)
(Daily Star, 2016)
Therefore, before CRISPR/Cas9 technology can attain with clinical applications, ethical and safety concerns should be take into consideration. In year 2015, the International Summit on Human Gene Editing claims had issued a statement that scientist must not use gene-editing technology to modify human embryos to design an actual living baby.(Gallagher, 2015) However, if it is decided that unusable embryos could be used for research purposes lawmakers should assess the guidelines in terms of the funding as well as the safety of this genetic editing tool on these embryos. Furthermore, to avoid an uproar from the society, researches could maybe find some way to responsibly share the information of this technology and what it tends to do. Regulations and cautions are something that are welcomed for the time being, however what is more needed is the development of proper protocols not only for the sake of the scientific community but humanity as well.(Dr Tomislav Meštrović, 2016)
Written by Chloe
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