CRISPR has the potential to be beneficial, but has aspects that can be frightening. Animal organs have been discussed as a potential means of filling the donor shortage. However, there are issues that come with using animal organs as donor organs for humans. Pigs would be the preferred animal for human organ donation, but a pig’s genome carries viruses called PERVs, which are similar to the virus that causes AIDS and have proven capable of infecting human cells (Specter, pg. 3). With CRISPR technology, there is the potential of editing the genome of pigs’ kidney cells to remove instances of PERV, which has been done by Church and his team (Specter, pg. 3). When these edited cells were introduced to human cells in the lab, the human cells were not infected. Using another set of pig cells, the team was also able to modify 20 genes that are known to cause reactions in the human immune system (Specter, pg. 3). These are both exciting and important steps towards using pig organs to alleviate the donor shortage. However, while these possibilities are exciting, there are scary aspects to CRISPR technology. It’s possible that the changes made in genes have unforeseen side effects or consequences, even if the clinical trial process is followed to the letter. There are too many possible effects of gene editing to predict exactly what would happen when pig’s organs are introduced to a human recipient.
I don’t think that gene editing should be done on humans. As Darnovsky states, unintended consequences (including off-target mutations) are possible, and there is not enough known about them to justify gene editing in humans (Darnovsky, pg. 3). I would agree with this belief, as there is just too much we don’t know about the potential side effects and consequences of gene editing as of now.