CRISPR: Changes with continuities
By Emerson Jenen
CRISPR is a new technology that has been invented in recent years that brought two people a Nobel prize. Its ability to go in and insert genes into human cells has made it a revolutionary technology. Opening doors to many things. Not the least of which is genetic modification. However, genetically modified humans are not a new idea. It has been theorized in literature and fiction many times. Most famously with Aldous Huxley's "Brave new world" envisioning a place where everyone's job is decided at birth with test tube babies being developed for certain jobs. A more close to home depiction of genetically modified society is the 1997 film, "Gattaca". Spelled only with the first letters of nitrogenous bases that make up DNA. It talks about a world in which some people are genetically modified at birth, to be smarter, faster, and stronger. With those that aren't genetically modified relegated to the lowest jobs in society.
Is that what is coming to us? Well, first it has to be made legal. In the US, genetically modifying human cells is legal as long as it's not heritable. This means that someone can modify skin cells, but not sperm cells. A man was actually arrested for this in China this back in 2018.
He had claimed to have created the first genetically modified children, but to do it he had to forge ethical documents and mislead doctors to implant them. This led to him getting fined over 400,000 dollars.
The problem right now with genetic editing of people is that we just don't have it 100%. CRISPR is amazing, but we don't have a way to be 100% sure that the embryo we modify and fertilize won't end up bringing someone into the world with severe birth defects. It's just not the right time.
However, just because CRISPR won't be used for this purpose, doesn't mean it's not going to be incredibly helpful. It has applications in literally every genetics field. It's helping genome editing in plants, it's helping to create new gene therapies, it's helping to create new treatments for diseases. It's changing the world in more ways than one, and in more ways than we can tell right now.