CRISPR-CAS9 Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat

CRISPR is a gene editing device that allows scientists to remove, add and turn off certain genes.

CRISPR was co created by Jennifer Dounda and Emmanuelle Charpentier (Burh, 2016).

How it works

First CRISPR-CAS9 finds its target sequence.

It then creates a guide RNA which then binds to the target sequence.

Then the CAS9 enzyme binds to the guide RNA.

CAS9 cuts the strand of DNA.

The cell recognizes that the DNA strand is broken and tries to repair it. Causing mutations and potential silencing of the virus or genetic disease (Your Genome, 2016).

CRISPR-CAS9 is the fastest and cheapest way of gene editing.

Scientists can insert, repair or remove certain genes. For example they could potentially remove a genetic disease from your DNA by removing that gene and your cell would replace it with a new one (Dharmacon, 2016)

Right now Chinese oncologists are using a form of CRISPR-CAS9 in an attempt to cure severe cases of lung cancer in patients. The study is focused on the safety of the treatment and its side effects. Ten patients will receive 2-4 injections of cells modified by CRISPR (Cyranoski, 2016).

A biotech firm in Boston called Editas Medicine is launching another clinical trial with the use of CRISPR this year. They are hoping to help cure Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA10), this is a rare disease that can cause blindness in the retinal (Walsh, 2016)

CRISPR is also being researched to benefit animals and plants.

Researcher Timothy Doran is using CRISPR technology to create a hypoallergenic chicken egg. He is altering the gene that creates protein so that protein no longer triggers a reaction in the blood that causes people to be allergic to the egg (Reardon, 2016).

Scientist Sim Gills is working on creating modified genes in honey bees so they will be less susceptible to the many parasitic diseases that are killing them (Reardon, 2016).

Scientists are also starting to alter genes in mosquitoes so they do not carry diseases such as malaria. Andrew Hammond and his team of researchers are genetically engineering the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, which is the main type of mosquito species that malaria is found in. If they can alter the gene drive in these mosquitoes then they could wipe out the gene that allows mosquitoes to carry malaria and wipe out malaria entirely (Stein, 2016).

Many people have controversial opinions whether or not the CRISPR technology is acceptable to use.

Scientists from around the world met and declared a moratorium on editing the heritable changes to the human genome until they have more research and information about the subject (Molteni, 2016).

According to John Harris of National Geographic, gene editing research should continue. He thinks if we continue CRISPR research on humans we could possibly find the cure to many fatal diseases such as cancer and Huntingtons disease. We could extend this research into human embryonic gene editing and potentially save babies born with genetic diseases from pain and suffering (Harris, N.D).

"Just as justice delayed is justice denied, so, too, therapy delayed is therapy denied. That denial costs human lives, day after day." - John Harris

The possibilities of CRISPR technology are endless. There could be the possibility of creating designer babies and humans. These would be people with, for example, low risk of strokes and illnesses, people with perfect pitch, stronger athletes, people with perfect eyesight and much more (Davidson, 2016).

Many people are against this technology as a whole. According to Marcy Darnovsky she believes that even if CRISPR was able to genetically alter genes so they wouldn't carry a certain genetic disease, it wouldn't help people with existing medical problems. She also stated in December 2015, using CRISPR to edit genes in embryos was a large topic spoken about at the international summit on human gene editing. Every scientist agreed that editing an embryos gene would cause an extraordinary amount of risks and could affect the long term health of the child (Darnovsky, 2016).

"Eugenics will inevitably be used by those with wealth and power to make others believe that prenatal genetic modification makes people better. This would be as much a myth as believing that the sperm from Nobel Laureates will produce a genius child." -Sheldon Krimsky

Many people are under the belief that the ability to edit the human genome gives people too much power. Camporsie believes that something that could potentially become a human being should not be touched and the ethics behind editing the human genome to make a designer baby would create too much diversity in wealth among people because only a few would be able to afford it. They also believe that it would create a very divided human society. People would then only choose to socialize with the people they have been altered to look like, and it would create new social standards that not everyone would be able to uphold (Darnovsky, 2016).

My own opinion on this subject is we should be able to alter the human genome to an extent. If we carry a genetic disease or disorder in our family then I believe that people should have the option to save their child future pain and suffering and remove the mutation. I also believe that if we did get to the point where there was enough research to support the idea of creating designer babies then people should be given that option. It could create a better society if we have people that are less susceptible to diseases and have different attributes. We could potentially be able to create a better society. If we had people that tended to have perfect pitch then that could be put to great use and expand the music industry. However, it all depends how people approach this situation. If people start to discriminate against others because they don't have a designer baby then I do not think people should be able to edit the human genome to that extent. Overall, I believe that if humans approach the fact that we could eventually have designer babies with caution and do not get sidetracked with greed and power, then I do agree that we keep researching and editing the human genome as we could potentially help improve the lives of people who suffer from genetic diseases. In order for this to happen there would need to be very clear rules or laws about editing the human genome to help insure that certain individuals do not use it in harmful or dangerous ways.

Glossary

Gene: a piece of a chromosome that is transferred from a parent to offspring and determines some characteristics of the future offspring.

Guide RNA: The RNAs that guide the insertion or deletion of certain portions of DNA

Enzyme: a substance produced by a living organism that acts as a catalyst to create a specific biochemical reaction.

Mutation: The changing of the structure in a gene.

Genetic disease: A genetic problem caused by one or more abnormalities in the genome.

Oncologist: A doctor qualified to diagnose and treat tumors.

Clinical trial: A research study that assigns human participants to a newly tested medical treatment.

Hypoallergenic: a substance that will not trigger an anaphylactic reaction.

Gene drive: a technique that helps insure the inheritance of a certain gene in an organism.

Moratorium: the prohibition of a certain activity.

Heritable: the ability to be inherited.

Works Cited

Sarah B. (2016, July 8). Jennifer Doudna, inventor of gene editing technology CRISPR Cas9, is coming to Disrupt. Retrieved February 15, 2017, https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/08/jennifer-doudna-inventor-of-gene-editing-technology-crispr-cas9-is-coming-to-disrupt/

Your Genome. (2016, December 19). What is CRISPR-Cas9? Retrieved February 15, 2017, http://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9

Dharmacon. (N.D). CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing Applications. Retrieved February 15, 2017, http://dharmacon.gelifesciences.com/applications/gene-editing/

David Cyranoski. (2016, November 15). CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time. Retrieved February 16, 2017, http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-gene-editing-tested-in-a-person-for-the-first-time-1.20988

Sarah Reardon. (2016, March 9). Welcome to the CRISPR zoo. Retrieved February 16, 2017, http://www.nature.com/news/welcome-to-the-crispr-zoo-1.19537

Rob Stein. (2016, December 14). To Fight Malaria, Scientists Try Genetic Engineering To Wipe Out Mosquitoes. Retrieved February 16, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/14/504732533/to-fight-malaria-scientists-try-genetic-engineering-to-wipe-out-mosquitoes

Meghan Molteni. (2016, November 18). China used CRISPR to fight cancer in a real, live human. Retrieved February 17, 2017, https://www.wired.com/2016/11/china-used-crispr-fight-cancer-real-live-human/

John Harris and Marcy Darnovsky. (N.D). Pro and Con: should gene editing be performed on juman embryos? Retrieved February 17, 2017, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/

Davidson. (2016, March 18). Designer babies and education: the age of CRISPR. Retrieved February 18, 2017, https://www.davidson.edu/news/news-stories/160318-designer-babies-and-education

Fergus Walsh. (2016, June 6). Gene editing technique could transform future. Retrieved February 18, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36439260

André Picard. (2017, February 21). Gene editing has far more promise than peril. Retrieved February 21, 2017, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/gene-editing-has-far-more-promise-than-peril/article34077846/

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