I’ll Take One CRISPR Edit, With a Side Of Concern

Like humans, various animal can have diseases that will significantly impact the population. In the case of the Black-Footed Ferret, which is already struggling with a lack of genetic diversity and general population size, sylvatic plague, which is not unlike bubonic plague, can have devastating effects. Trying to vaccinate the population individually has been tricky, and would require constant upkeep. However, through the use of CRISPR it would be possible to “encod[e] antibodies generated by vaccination and [edit] them into the ferrets’ DNA” (Specter 4). This would also ensure that future generations of ferrets would be free from the disease. It has also been suggested that a similar technique could be used on white-footed mice and Lyme disease, but concerns have been raised about the possibility of doing this kind of editing could have unforeseen consequences, and caution should be used. Given the prevalence of these mice, the effect they currently have on their ecosystem, and how untested with this type of work is, going through with this type of project without someway to reverse it would be risky and irresponsible. (Specter 4).
In terms of human, It does seem like too big a risk to edit the entire next generations genes for any particular disease given we don’t know enough to even feel comfortable testing it on animals. Far more testing should be done before it’s attempted on any humans in any form. However, the screening of parents for diseases they could pass on, and of embryos for the diseases they already carry are actions which can save countless children from diseases that are horrible to live with and are far smaller in scale than editing a vaccine into the entire populations DNA.

1 thought on “I’ll Take One CRISPR Edit, With a Side Of Concern”

  1. I think your addressment of the Black-Footed Ferret is a good point to raise. Like most species in the pool of using CRISPR technology, there are indeed other means of stopping diseases that affect humans, but it comes at constant upkeep and is in fact, tricky. That is where I find CRISPR comes in as a techno-fix to human problems. We have developed a technology that would make stopping disease SO easy, but the consequences are unforeseeable. Ultimately, the species could carry a new, harsher disease that we would have no means of combating. So, do we follow through with vaccination that would be hard to keep up, but reduce the chance of plagues spreading? Or do we eradicate the disease being carried altogether at the risk of something worse? It is a time-scale argument for the case of those ferrets.
    This follows to your second paragraph. Either way, if we want to complete it on humans, we have to complete it on animals first for the comfort of society. Rarely are we the first “guinea pigs” for scientific testing. I agree with your statement that screening is already an action available for people, and that sounds better than editing DNA, but whose choice is it? Definitely not ours. I think if parents are willing to spend the money and risk on it, it should be their decision to make.

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