11 December 2017
Genetic Engineering: The Future of Humankind
Genetic engineering has the power to change humankind as a species. “A new technology just announced today has the potential to wipe out diseases, turn back evolutionary clocks, and re-engineer entire ecosystems, for better or worse” (Nelsen and De Chant 1). Due to the impact this new feat of technology can have on the world, there are many opinions arising among the scientific community and the public. The ultimate fear is that genetic engineering could lead to a form of eugenics, that will cause more discrimination against the disabled and those with hereditary diseases. Some of the general public question if the means of researching on embryos is ethically sound. As scientists make more advances, there are still many questions to consider. Although the science of genetic engineering is in its infancy, with time it has the potential to change the world for the greater good.
As one would assume, genetic engineering is an extremely complicated process. It has only become more simplified in the last three years. “In the last few years, our ability to edit genomes has improved at a shockingly rapid clip. So rapid, in fact, that one of the easiest and most popular tools, known as CRISPR-Cas 9, is just two years old. Researchers once spent months, even years, attempting to rewrite an organism's DNA. Now they spend days” (Nelsen and De Chant 2). CRISPR-Cas 9 is a tool used by geneticists and it stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. This tool can be programmed to target specific areas of the genetic code of an organism and edit the DNA. The critical enzyme Cas 9 is used to cut strands of the DNA on each side, so the bits of genetic code can be added or removed. Then the scientist will add in a form of predesigned RNA, the translator of genetic code, to guide the Cas 9 enzyme to the proper site where the DNA needs to be edited and repaired. This process was designed to mimic the way bacteria react to invading pathogens and viruses. The bacteria would use CRISPR to cut out infected strands of DNA, but keep a small portion of the virus, so that they could defend against it if there is another attack. Since this process in similar to an immune system, scientists found a way to adapt this system to be used in animal cells as well.
There are many different routes that a geneticist can take in order to edit genomes, and new developments are emerging all the time. Even though the CRISPR-Cas 9 method is the most common and easily replicated method, it still has its limits. “Much more research is needed before the method could be tested in clinical trials, currently impermissible under federal law. But if the technique is found to work safely with this and other mutations, it might help some couples who could not otherwise have healthy children” (Belluck 3). Scientists like Arvind Chhabra, PhD of the...