It’s crazy sometimes how fast the world moves around you and you don’t know about it. Geneticist Jennifer Doudna co-invented the technology of many ethical movies and sometimes horror movies: DNA editing technology or CRISPR-Cas9. Cas9 will allow scientists to precisely edit DNA strands, cut away genetic diseases and replace them with new healthy strands. It can edit embryotic DNA and even adult DNA.
Just as the movies predict however, this tool may also be used to create “designer babies” or babies that are completely designed by their parents on the genetic level. Doudna also recognizes this as a major ethical question: should we allow the use of genetic altering technology?
Before getting to the ethical changes, we should approach the medical upside of this technology. CRISPR is a tool that can enable the cutting and removal of genetic diseases- how far that range goes, however, is still in trials.
This is still a relatively new technology and scientists are still testing it, however the trials already conducted reveal that it does work. As Doudna points out, this technology is still far into the trial stages, however it is no longer the work of science fiction.
Genetically altered plants and animals are a usual, and eventually maybe humans will be as well. As of now, it is still far off. For those reasons, Doudna has called for a “global pause in any clinical applications in embryos to give us more time to study the implications of doing so” but it wasn’t just for that reason alone: scientists recognize this is a topic that must be discussed.
As far as I was able to gather from the TED talk, there are no downsides to CRISPR yet, however as I’ve said before: this is still in very early stages and it needs to be studied a little bit more.
That being said, the main reason this is not in clinical use is because of Doudna and her colleagues’ call for a global pause. Those movies or books with genetic science involved always turn out stale, maybe not physically, but for the society that it is presented in.
So the question I would present to everyone is: should we use this technology at all? Or for those of you who are more religious: should we fix God’s work even if it means that person will die?
If you found this as an interesting topic you can find the original topic right on ted.com.