CRISPR-Cas9 Research

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Monday, April 18th, 2016
Choi Jae-hoon

On February 1st of this year, for the first time in the world, genetic editing of healthy human embryos was allowed. The British government decided to allow researchers and scientists to use CRISPR-Cas9 to further knowledge of embryos by editing them.

The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, more commonly known as CRISPR-Cas9 research, is a study of prokaryotic DNA-associated proteins that evidently allowed for a specific targeting of changes to the genome of living cells.

The CRISPR-Cas9 Type II system is comprised of a gRna and a non-specific CRISPR-associated endonuclease called Cas-9 and is used over other genome-engineering proteins, due to its ease of control, and its adaptability. By simply changing the targeting sequence in the gRNA, the genomic target of the Cas-9 can be altered.

What scientists hope to find out from studying the DNA of these prokaryotic DNAs is to see its impact on the embryos of humans, and eventually to prevent birth defects and miscarriages in women. According to the Technology Review, if the CRISPR research advances, it is only a matter of time before scientists may be able to genetically modify or completely engineer babies so that the best suitable child can be born. We may eventually also learn how to alter the genes of other organisms and species. By genetically modifying human embryos, this research into the CRISPR-Cas9 System may be engineered to cure diseases, not only in babies, but also in adults.

Critics may be sceptical of the moral issues of genetically modifying DNA, due to it being considered as altering one’s identity, and that may be true. DNA does define what a person is, and what traits they may possess, and by altering such things, these humans may lose what’s innately theirs. However, these sceptics should also consider the actual, pragmatic benefits that such research brings, and how it can, in fact, do much more good to a human body than harm, since it may prevent long-lasting, genetic diseases.

Besides, this technology is now widely accessible and scientists all over the world are working feverishly to unlock all of CRISPR’s potential. It will be impossible to put the genie back into the bottle, so to speak. As a result, rather than trying to prevent the spread of CRISPR we should instead embrace this technology and work to control it.

The British government’s green light on genetic editing research may be the start of an international research department to further advance genetic editing in other nations. Perhaps, in our lifetimes, we may be able to completely eradicate any genetic problems through this research.