Humans have beenengineering life such as plants, food and animals for many years through aprocess known as selective breeding. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that scientistfound out how they were able to do this and began trying to mess with thegenetic code of plants using radiation.
In the 1970s scientist started toinsert pieces of DNA into animals, plants and bacteria to study and modifythem. Up until now editing and modifyingthe genetic code was “expensive, complicated and took a long time to do”. All that changed because of a new breakthroughtechnology known as the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromicrepeats or CRISPR for short.
CRISPR allows scientists to “cheaply, quickly andprecisely” cut and edit a piece of any organism’s DNA. This new technique was discovered through theobservation of a bacteria that was invaded by a virus and survived. Aftersurviving a viral attack the bacteria keeps a piece of the viruses DNA storedin “its own genetic code in a DNA archive known as CRISPR”. When the virusdecides to attack again, the bacteria makes a RNA copy from the DNA archive andarms a protein called CAS9.
It then proceeds to search every part of thebacteria for the virus by comparing every piece of DNA it finds until it findsa match and cuts it out. Through this, scientists found out that “the CRISPRsystem is programable” all you have to do is introduce a copy of DNA you wantto modify and then place it in a living cell. Aside from it being cheap, quickand easy it is able to “edit live cells, switch genes on and off, and targetand study particular DNA sequences”. CRISPR opens up so many possibilities inthe medical field but there are also negative sides to using CRISPR.
There are manyways that scientists are wanting to use CRISPR, one of them being to cure incurablediseases and mutations. In 2015 scientists used CRISPR to “cut the HIV virusout of living cells from patients in a lab”. The following year they had alarger experiment done with rats that had the HIV virus in nearly all their bodyand were able to get rid of more than half of it.
Scientists hope that in a fewdecades the CRISPR therapy will be able to cure HIV. They also hope that givenenough time the CRISPR therapy will be able to defeat “one of our worstenemies” … cancer. The first “clinicaltrial for a CRIPR cancer treatment on human patients” was approved on June 21,2016 and “not even a month later Chinese scientist announced that they wouldtreat lung cancer” this way. Genetic diseases such as, color blindness,hemophilia and Huntington’s disease, are other things that ” a powerful toollike CRISPR” might be able to get rid of. One of the downsides of thisprocedure is that it changes the individual but won’t pass down to theirchildren unless you use the procedure on “reproductive cells or very earlyembryos” The problem somepeople and scientists have with CRISPR is the question of “whether scientistsshould be tinkering with the human gene pool at all”.
Because althoughscientists are wanting to use CRISPR to cure diseases they could one day”switch their attention from curing hereditary diseases to editing supposedlydesirable traits into a person’s DNA” such as “high intelligence, tall stature,or blue eyes”. Jennifer Doudna, a berkeley biologist who co- invented CRISPR, states, “Great things can be done with thepower of technology – and there are things you would not want done”.I believe thatalthough CRISPR is an amazing discovery and could help a lot in the medicalfield, it will eventually be used to create modified humans.
In which I believeshould not be used for.