CRISPR Gene Editing

In Michael Specter’s National Geographic article, he talks about the use of CRISPR in the editing of mosquito genes. This is incredible because this would allow scientists to completely rid these insects from being carriers of diseases that have killed millions of people. The use of CRISPR has the potential to change and save the lives of millions of people across the globe, though it could have unforeseen consequences as well. One such issue that could arise is if scientists cross genes from one species to another, which could introduce a new disease to a population that has no natural immunity to it and which could even be resistant to antibiotics. This would be catastrophic because there would be almost no way of reversing this effect and it could lead the death of quite possibly an entire species. An unintentional and irreversible extinction event. This is terrifying to scientists and many critics of the technology because this is a possibility, although this is a possibility in GMO food as well and has been for a long time. One such example is corn and how certain strains have been developed that could wipe out crops across the globe as it is so invasive and destructive. This is why genetic modification is done in remote locations, sometimes even inside of mountains, to keep these potentially dangerous GMOs locked away.

In my opinion, I don’t think gene modification should be done on humans simply because it could open the door to many other potentially morally compromising modifications. If scientists are modifying genes to stop things like cerebral palsy, who’s to say they can’t also modify physical traits in humans as well simply because they can. To restate what was discussed in my first paragraph, the modification of genes could alter human immunity to diseases and potentially lead to outbreaks or even pandemics. If extensive testing is done and it is certain that the only thing that was changed was a harmful trait, then I believe it should be left up to the people to decide if this should continue. It is a very tough topic to discuss and the moral implications are immense so it is difficult to come to a conclusion and likely will be for many years to come.

3 thoughts on “CRISPR Gene Editing”

  1. I agree that the genetic editing of mosquitos is a really cool idea and that it could save millions of lives around the world. This may be a pessimistic view of the situation, but would saving those lives in the short term compromise the survivability of humans in the future as it would increase the speed at which our population approaches the Malthusian limit? Genetic editing could provide more food in form of GMOs, but even that has its limit when feeding billions of people around the globe. I do not remember where in the readings that it suggested that GMO crops were dangerous to people, and in fact, I seem to recall one of the articles stating exactly the opposite and that the perception of danger was built on false pretenses. I do agree that there are social and moral implications with editing human genes, though I think the danger of the implications on social classes is more pressing than the chance of a pandemic.

  2. Nice post, I agree with what you have written. I believe that as long as the unforeseen consequences have the potential to completely devastate an entire species, we need to hold off on gene editing in humans. The moral and ethical guidelines for the use of CRISPR technology need to be unanimously agreed upon by all the worlds nations, which would seem to be nearly impossible. You might have laws here in the states that restrict using CRISPR technologies for physical attributes in children before birth, but you know Russia would be developing humans specifically for war or for the Olympics. Humans have been surviving for 200,000 years, I think that CRISPR is no where near as black and white as a typical vaccination that might prevent the flu or might not. Vaccines don’t affect people who don’t want to use them. Gene editing would affect everybody on earth even if they weren’t a part of it or disagreed with it.

  3. Hello Bryce, great blog post altogether! I like the example that you chose to write about because it’s a big safety issue in the world. One of the fastest ways for diseases to transport across the globe is by mosquitos. I totally agree with your fear of CRISPR being involved with the mosquito issue. One small mess up in the gene cross breeding and a new disease could put many people at risk very fast. You had a great example at the bottom of paragraph 1 of how gene modifying can be risky. It’s critical to be cautious of all the negatives things that could happen. Ultimately, I would have to agree with your opinion of gene modification on humans. Until we know that gene editing works without any drawbacks than we can’t afford to do it.

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