CRISPR - A Heads Up on DNA Manipulation
by Wayne Flaherty
Time magazine in its July 4, 2016, issue has an article on what they refer to as 'A Revolution in Genetics". I urge everyone to read the full article. The article describes a new technique that lets scientists edit DNA with ease. CRISPR-Cas9 is a technique for gene manipulation that is just 4 years old. Scientists are now able to edit RNA. Experiments are currently underway to alter human genes in such a way that, if allowed to continue into a reproductive cycle, the alterations would be passed on to future generations. Current laws require termination of these types of human embryo experiments at just 7 days (when 200 to 300 cells have been created). The UK allows 14 days.
The Director of National Intelligence has classified CRISPR as a weapon of mass destruction. There are currently no laws governing the type of research that is done on human embryos with private money. CRISPR techniques can be used on humans, plants, and animals. Today, you can go online to any number of biological supply companies and order your own CRISPR kit for as little as $130.
Ethical concerns include well-meaning scientists who may manipulate human genes to cure some disease and are unable to completely access the long-term impact of their experiments. Worse yet, what if the technology is used by hostile forces attempting to create a super human race of biologically superior soldiers.
As is the case in all fundamental discoveries, people are racing at breakneck speed to discover they can profit in money terms, medical breakthroughs, or any number of nefarious ways they can benefit from CRISPR techniques.
Not every scientist is a Frankenstein attempting to breathe life into inanimate flesh. They don't have to be. Well-meaning scientists may well stumble on some purported use and discover too late that the unintended consequences are too horrible to contemplate. I urge you to read the Time magazine article. I have not tried to research CRISPR online so I don't know what you might discover that way.
As I said, this is just a heads up.