CRISPR, the New Eugenics?

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.

2 thoughts on “CRISPR, the New Eugenics?”

  1. I definitely agree that CRISPR technology is exciting and it is something that we need to keep an eye on in the years to come. Obviously being able to edit the genome is a giant step forward in our technological capabilities. The importance of being able to edit the genome can not be understated. But it is something that I see leading to a lot of unintended consequences and issues. I think we have a ways to go before we should be considering editing the human genome. There are still far too many unknowns to justify attempting this. Until we have everything clear cut we shouldn’t be thinking of using this on humans.

  2. I don’t think gene editing is ready for humans yet. But I it won’t be long before until we are able to remove genetic diseases from embryos, safely and reliably. It’s hard to guess whether or not gene editing on humans will be allowed in the future, but if there were examples of safe genetic disease elimination in animals it might seem like a better idea. If that does happen and genetic editing is allowed on humans, I think rules will have to limit the extent of it. If everything is allowed I could see people paying a lot of money to get the perfect child. Gene editing could easily become negative like the eugenics movement did.

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