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The invention of the gene editing technology, known as CRISPR, was developed by two researchers, who won the prize.
The tech's applications are almost endless. Building on decades of research in the field of gene therapies and officially unveiled back in 2013, CRISPR allows researchers to alter and repair genes in virtually every living thing It is an ally in the fight against climate change due to its success fighting genetic diseases.
There are serious ethical questions raised by the same thing. It opens the way to change ourselves and other species. It has a bit of a PR problem because it is a powerful and complicated tool.
In science fiction, genetic manipulation has remained a constant narrative driver. A number of valid concerns have arisen as a result of the start of gene editing in practice. Some wonder if expensive designer babies, genetically engineered by the one percent to become the next athletic superstar or top model, will inherit the Earth, while others wonder if gene editing is a way of playing God.
It's all valid. In areas that are likely to have a profound impact on the future of medicine, and which still trail a sordid, complicated past, game-changing advances should be subject to interrogation. Black and brown people have historically been treated unkindly by American genetic research.
The "playing God" argument may distract from its real, available, and very much life- saving applications.
The Chief Scientific Officer of the Gene Editing Institute at ChristianaCare told Futur that it was not a question of whether or not the tool was the right one.
How do you use it properly?
The CEO of CorriXR therapies is Kmiec. His work has spanned decades, and he and his team recently got some promising results: in April, they found that lung cancer cells could be genetically altered to be more susceptible to therapy.
Gene editing may not be an automatic silver bullet for all illnesses, but trials have shown that it can be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This is where Kmiec hopes to frame the majority of the discussion around the advancement of the oft- controversial advancement.
We are not introducing a new treatment paradigm if we could reduce the amount of Chemo that patients take. Existing patient treatments are being helped by us.
In simpler terms, Kmiec offered a metaphor that a lot of geneticists often use: that CRISPR is less a total genetic rewrite and more a genetic spell checker. The natural defense mechanism found inbacteria and archaea can be used to correct, alter, and remove typos in individual genomes.
He said that it allows them to correct inbred genes. Nature does make a lot of mistakes.
This is where things get difficult.
Kmiec is a practicing Catholic and has been considering his scientific work in relation to his faith.
Evolution is true and religion has its own place. We don't play God. We're just copying nature.
He said that genetic editing directs evolution to a more positive outcome. Gene editing can improve and save lives.
The playing God question is one of the major questions that Gene editing invokes. The designer baby question is related to our relationship to wealth, privilege, and even Eugenics. Kmiec doesn't think that we need to be too worried in the short term, at least not worried enough to distract from the work that is being done to transform the way we treat genetic diseases.
"For now, the genetics behind such attributes remains too complicated to reliably manipulate in a lab, so we won't be able to design athletic prowess, or some sort of extraordinary intellect," said Kmiec.
He says that ethical scientists wouldn't engineer an unborn baby.
Kmiec said there was enough for them to work on without trying to redesign humans. On the other side, no review board inside a legitimate institution would ever consider an experiment like that.
It has happened. Several genetically edited babies were born in China last year. The experiment was condemned by scientists in the field, but they are believed to be healthy to this day. The doctor behind the experiment was jailed after the babies were born. He was freed in April.
It's important to note that the hurdles of the project aren't just arcane. According to some experts, the tech's failure to find a strong footing in mainstream treatment plans has less to do with the field's ability to build ethical guardrails, and more to do with the commercialization of powerfulbiotech.
Up to 400 million people are affected by one of the 7,000 diseases caused by single genes. Legal, financial and organizational are the biggest obstacles.
A sobering process is playing out across the entire sector of for-profit companies. Companies argue that a one-time cure saves the health care system years of costly supportive care when it's priced high.
CRISPR will continue to save and improve lives. Genetic colorblindness is cured. It has been used to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in live patients. It could save the lives of lung cancer patients who don't respond well to treatment. Powerful technologies should be questioned by the public. Even if you get a few flimsy ones, it's still easy to drive off a cliff if ethics aren't considered seriously. The NYT points out that the American healthcare system is not helping the car get started.
The good, the questionable, and the crisis-inducing outcomes of gene editing can all be seen at the same time. Enthusiasm and haste are doomed to fail ethics. Without considering the role that gene editing can play today in human, animal, and planet health, an obsession with designer baby hell is doomed to hinder the medicine's practical, comprehensive progress and adoption.
We should meet somewhere in the middle since lives are at stake.
It's almost like a science fiction novel to start with. The field can be seriously hurt if you blow it up.
A patient's genes are being edited to make them less prone to high cholesterol.