Currently,we have different techniques to use in gene editing. One of these techniquesemploys the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. The CRISPR-Cas9 system uses a guidesequence to cut a specific DNA sequence. This method had the potential for geneediting as is could be used to target and cut specific disease-causingsequences, replacing those sequences with healthy ones.
If scientists changethe guide sequence, CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to target and cut a specificsequence and replace it with a healthy one. Scientists have been able to use theCRISPR-Cas9 system to successfully remove a dangerous mutation in humanembryos. At first, they tried inserting the CRISPR-Cas9 system into fertilizedeggs. This resulted in thirty-six of the fifty-four tested embryos without themutation and another thirteen of the embryos without the mutation but not inevery cell. Following this the scientists decided to try acting at an earlierstage in an attempt to increase the number of mutation-free embryos. In thesecond method, they inserted the CRISPR-Cas9 system and the spermsimultaneously into the egg. This resulted in forty-two of the fifty-fourembryos containing two copies of the gene that were mutation free. The embryosalso contained no unwanted mutations.
This is a great advancement in techniquethat would allow scientists to potentially remove more DNA sequences that causefatal diseases. With the successful editing of adangerous mutation in human embryos responsible for heart disease in humanembryos, this introduce the potential for gene editing of other genes andmutations that would cause other diseases or fatal conditions. However, oncethe technology becomes advanced enough, this could also cause people to try toproduce what is called a designer baby. People may try to enhance certainqualities of the future child, such as intelligence, artistic ability, orathleticism. In addition to these traits, people could also be preferentialabout the child’s eye color, skin tone, hair, or even height.
Modifying thesetraits could lead to a loss of diversity in the human genome. People withmodified traits would pass them on to their offspring, who may or may notutilize gene editing for their own children as well. Eventually, the traitsthat were chosen would become more common than the supposed undesirable traits.Those traits would eventually be lost, decreasing the diversity among people.
Allthis may also lead to a type of discrimination between people with thepreferred traits and those without them. People could become less tolerant ofothers who do not have the same qualities as them, similar to how people havebeen discriminated against on the basis of race, ethnicity, and even gender. Thetechnology could also result in ethical dilemmas regarding whether or not particulargenes should be chosen for a child before it is born. It would be hard to drawa line between using the method for correcting certain diseases and using it toalter specific genes with the goal of a child expressing a specific trait.
Altogether, the CRISPR-Cas9 systemis a great technology used for gene editing. The system has been used in thepast to study genes and how bacteria use it for adaptive immunity againstviruses. Since the system was used to successfully edit and remove a dangerousmutation from human embryos, potential for the system in the area of geneediting has increased dramatically. Once the technology and procedures havebecome more developed and advanced, it holds the potential to assist in theediting and removal of genes and sequences that are known to cause disease andfatal conditions in humans. However, this could also lead to the pursuit of aperfect conception of designer babies.
The advancement of CRISPR-Cas9 willraise many questions, some of which will be either biomedical or ethical oreven both.