Frozen Fixes

CRISPR technology is a scientific invention that has the power to change our current realities of illness and disease. We are entering a new era where genetic editing will be at the center of political debate. With this new incredible science, also comes the probability of dangerous consequences. Specter writes in his National Geographic article “The scientists most responsible for advances like CRISPR agree that when we begin to tinker with the genetic heritage of other species, not to mention our own, it may not be easy, or even possible, to turn back”(Specter 5). This is part of the question when talking about using CRISPR to bring back the black-footed ferret population using genetic diversity that has been preserved at the San Diego Frozen Zoo for 30 years. CRISPR can introduce more variable DNA into the ferret gene pool. This technology is also terrifying as disease that has been eradicated once, could be preserved and re released, causing mass epidemics for a world population that no longer has immunity to this disease. When used carelessly, it has the danger of completely changing a species genes and the populations of many species. It is a blessing and a curse to have this technology.

So should genetic engineering be done on humans becomes the next and largest ethical question in science today? I believe that if we have the technology to prevent disease and improve the quality of life of an individual, then we should do that. I do not believe that stretches as far as to the idea of “super babies” or attempts to reach genetic perfection. Some say this powerful technology has the ability to defy the idea of survival of the fittest, but I believe that was no longer relevant after the first agricultural revolution. We should not be depriving sick and diseased people of a treatment if we have the science to give them a better life.

1 thought on “Frozen Fixes”

  1. Great post, Mia! Ethically speaking, I agree that we should use CRISPR technology to help people who need it. Honestly, I don’t believe “survival of the fittest” has applied to humans for awhile now. There’s evidence of humans caring for their disabled clans members well before the Agricultural Revolution. Not to mention that things a majority of us find abhorrent—rape, cannibalism, and torture—are all things that animals have been observed doing (of course, depending on the culture or circumstances, some of these acts might be considered acceptable). Nature may be amoral, but we are clearly not. I also agree that we shouldn’t strive for “genetic perfection” either. Considering that everybody has their own idea of perfection, where would we even begin develop such a standard? I can’t help but feel this type of mindset could be dangerous. For example, pugs and other brachycephalic dogs (breeds with smushed faces) exist because many people find them “ugly cute”, but this also creates terrible health problems. Without proper snouts, these animals can’t breathe right, which is why you’ll see a lot of them gasping for air. How easy would it be to do similar things to humans for the sake of some ideal? Maybe not with our faces but with attributes such as height. What kind of stress might we place on a person’s body by making them taller? To think that the same technology we developed to improve our health could also be used to distort ourselves in unhealthy ways is nothing short of ironic.

    Links to ancient humans caring for their sick and health problems in brachycephalic dogs:

    https://www.care2.com/causes/ancient-bones-acts-of-kindness-eons-ago.html

    https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/c_multi_brachycephalic_airway_syndrome

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