In addition to the ethical questions and the serious unintended health consequences, this would also open the door to patenting human DNA. Action Alert!
Late last month, a group of Chinese scientists published a study that tried to answer the question, “Is it possible to edit the genetic makeup of human embryos?”
It’s a question that has occupied scientists and medical researchers for some time. An estimated 12 million Americans are affected by genetic disorders like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and many others. While treatments exist for some of these, other conditions have no known cure. This has led to research in genetic manipulation as a means of curing disease.
Scientists recently developed CRISPR, which stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.” The Chinese scientists used this genome-editing technique in their study to target and manipulate specific genes.
The idea for CRISPR came from studying bacteria’s ability to fight viruses. Bacteria create molecules that can attack specific stretches of a virus’s DNA. Why not use this, the scientists reasoned, as a way to attack and replace the mutated genes that are causing disease in humans with properly functioning DNA? Or, to go one step further, why not attempt to “fix the mistake” early on in the embryo and replace the faulty genes from the outset?