SEP 16, 2016 09:56 AM PDT

CRISPR-Cas9 for Genetically Modified Humans?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Science portrayed in movies is, unsurprisingly, usually farfetched and largely separated from reality. However unrealistic this pseudoscience can be, it often instills real concerns in the people who watch movies and read books. One of the biggest anxieties surrounds genetic editing, especially of humans.

Editing DNA in human embryos is legal in Britain, using a technology that's taken science by storm during the past decade: CRISPR Cas9. The CRISPR system, which stands for "Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats," is inspired by bacteria who developed CRISPR over time in self defense from viral attacks. Now that CRISPR has been adapted for use in the lab and in the clinic, scientists can use it to make genetic changes in genomes of all types of animals, including in humans.

While CRISPR has already been used in multiple scenarios like altering pig DNA, defusing allergens, and making mosquitoes that can't transmit malaria, science isn't quite yet at the stage of making "designer babies," or making unpredictable germline changes. While these genetic changes could eventually wipe out genetic diseases and given humans disabilities, it would also be opening a Pandora's box full of ethical dilemmas and other unknowns.
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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