Whelp. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.
CRISPR has been used to make genetically engineered babies.
Specifically twin girls in China have been modified to be resistant to HIV.
Want to know why this is morally reprehensible?
Read about it here.
You had to see this coming. When we first started discussing the possibility of gene editing, our second thought was “oh shoot, this could get ethically complicated quickly”.
So it’s not surprise that as we continue down this path, many a voice is rising in caution.
Read about some of them here.
The way to kill invasive species, and thereby protect endangered species are brutal—traps, long-range rifles, and poisons—deployable only on a small scale and wildly indiscriminate. To excise the rat, say, from an ecosystem requires a sledgehammer that falls on many species.
All this is why some conservation biologists such as Karl Campbell has begun pushing for research into a much more precise and effective tool—one you might not associate with nature-loving conservationists. Self-perpetuating synthetic genetic machines called gene drives could someday alter not just one gene or one rat or even a population of rats but an entire species—of rats, mosquitoes, ticks, or any creature. And this biological technology promises to eliminate these destructive animals without shedding a drop of blood.
But the methods also contain the threat of unleashing another problem: They could change species, populations, and ecosystems in unintended and unstoppable ways.
Want to know more? Read about it here.
CRISPR has the revolutionary potential to alter gene expression by cutting DNA.
Now NmeCas9 is a protein that cuts not just DNA, but RNA.
This has scary potential for viruses (made from RNA), but having read very little (and I don’t think very much is known yet), but I am interested to see how this progresses.
Read about it here, and keep checking on NiB. I see myself writing more about this in the future.
CRISPR has become so pervasive, that while I was at a party this weekend in Berlin I had three different people ask me if I’m working on CRISPR (for the record, I’m not).
But now you can! Seriously, DIY CRISPR kits are now available for purchase online. Read about one journalist’s journey trying to figure out if she was successful in her gene editing endeavors.
But equally hilarious are the posts I’ve seen on facebook of scientist considering buying the kit for the cheap lab equipment (optional mini-centrifuge for 125… that normally costs a few thousand dollars…).
I have written exhaustively about CRISPR-Cas technology, and its potential to change science and the world as we know it.
But with this change in science as we know it, we’re faced with some pretty important ethical questions (also not the first time I’ve talked about this on NiB). However, what is new is this excellent post by Osagie K. Obasogie, who researches ethical issues surrounding reproductive and genetic technologies.
He addresses how the Trump administration, and the rise of white nationalism is concerning with the new CRISPR possibilities. It’s not like we haven’t experienced scientific projects trying to engineer better humans, one only needs to remember the aftermath of the Holocaust and the public Nuremburg trials.
It’s an interesting line of thought to walk down, and I strongly recommend reading the piece here.
How comfortable do you feel knowing that there is no group coordinating a national biology strategy in the US, and that a single for-profit company holds a critical mass of intellectual property rights to the future of genomic editing?
Crispr can be used to engineer agricultural products like wheat, rice, and animals to withstand the effects of climate change. Seeds can be engineered to produce far greater yields in tiny spaces, while animals can be edited to create triple their usual muscle mass. This could dramatically change global agricultural trade and cause widespread geopolitical destabilization. Or, with advance planning, this technology could help the US forge new alliances.
Without a plan, the US is left with the existing democratic instruments of change: patents, regulation, legislation, and lawsuits. And society is trusting our lawmakers, political appointees, and agency heads to apply those instruments to biological technologies that could literally change the future of humanity.
Concerned? Want to know more? Read about it here!