Could CRISPR spell a new era for man?

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a tool which could allow genetic engineers to selectively remove disease carrier cells in a person’s DNA or target certain genes for enhancement of the human anatomy. Highly poised to become the most effective way to beat cancer, researchers have recently identified 120 new ways in which it could be used to treat the disease. What makes it so special is its ease of use and the precision with which the human genome can be edited.

The technology presents clear benefits but also raises moral concerns – such as the exploitation of its use for personal or financial gain, and these need to be addressed before it can be fully implemented in the future.

In light of the possibility to alter human genes, some scientists are already calling for a temporary ban on the utilisation of CRISPR as they do not see it as ethically or methodically developed enough for clinical use on the human DNA. Others argue that involving bioethics in the discussion in the first place could be slowing down the progress of science.

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Disease could be a thing of the past

CRISPR has the potential to completely revolutionise the medical sector by altering the very genetic codes that make us who we are. It could eliminate disease in patients by stopping cancer cells from multiplying or make individuals less susceptible to contracting specific diseases such as AIDS.

 

Applying the utilitarian school of thought, this would serve to benefit the greater masses as the eradication of disease would benefit the human race as a whole, and could end considerable suffering for many people.  Even those not using CRISPR could profit indirectly; if you eliminate a deadly communicable infection in one individual, then you protect the well-being of other members of the public by preventing such diseases from being passed on to them. From this ethical standpoint, the use of CRISPR seems a very viable approach.

With its gene editing process having a rapid turnaround from conception to implementation, it is certainly an ideal method for combatting a pandemic. Not only can the process be quick, but it is also very precise and relatively cheap; both features that could allow it to spread very rapidly. This quick growth would make the product readily available to the public, and thus steer it away from potential elitist use. In this way, utility is maximised, globally benefiting people from all walks of life with the inception of this new life-changing technology.

A necessity for man in space

Looking even further, space exploration now seems a very reasonable consideration for the preservation of the human race. With Earth’s resources progressively dwindling and the exponential growth of world population, the framework of common sense would suggest that scientists could start to look towards space as the answer. However, radiation in space is extremely harmful to human DNA and a solution to counteract this could be utilising the CRISPR editing tool. As such, continued progress in its research and use may be vital for human survival beyond Earth. Even now, researchers working with CRISPR believe they are doing so to assist the progression of the human race, and fundamentally this could be strongly linked to the positive character-based motives of virtue ethics.

 The “Superhuman” Dilemma

The use of CRISPR equally presents some major concerns for its use in the future. One of such ethical concerns relates to the issue of human enhancement and the obvious implications of being able to remove disease and genetic disorders.  This is presented in the fact that there is scope to not only fix but also upgrade human characteristics, making humans more predisposed to having better physical attributes or better intellectual capacity.  This creation of ‘superhumans’ poses moral issues of whether it is okay for some people or groups to have deliberate advantages over others, and what kind of effects these enhanced features could have on whole populations and societal interactions in the long run. Discussions regarding this are essential as there is a strong possibility of prejudices or discrimination being held by those with or without CRISPR aided gene modifications.

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The deontological theories of Kant provide a suitable framework in which to analyse the potential ethical consequences of implementing CRISPR in global populations. Upgrading some and not others, could lead to a division on the viewpoint relating to CRISPR, as those who are unable to attain it may be unfavourably biased towards the technology due to its lack of accessibility. With a loss in the public’s want for CRISPR, Kantian ethics would be violated and in this case, CRISPR becomes an unethical technique which should not be implemented. In addition, a lack of understanding about the long term effects of CRISPR could lead to a negative market reputation of the technology to potential customers, and this could once again discourage members of society from using it.

Furthermore, stakeholders – particularly those who have financial investments in the technology’s development, could egotistically look to abuse the technology for self-gain. It is unlikely that the whole population will be able to use CRISPR in its early days due to financial restraints. Against the freedom principle, this would mean that those unable to upgrade themselves will be hindered in relation to individuals who can.

Next Steps…

The main issue at hand may link back to the fact that there is still a lot of speculation surrounding the technology.  It is clear that the exact boundary capabilities and consequences regarding the use of CRISPR have not yet been exhaustively defined. However, the remarkable benefits of what the public stands to gain from this novel genetic tool cannot be ignored; and for this reason, it is our viewpoint that the use of CRISPR should be permitted – but with adequate regulation. To implement this most effectively, there is an urgent need for more public input and professional forum discussions involving all the relevant stakeholders (from political leaders to scientists), concerning the ethical implications of employing this technology.

Group 42:  Alexandra Agbu, Thomas Jackson, Rowan Huggins, James Tubb

 

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Could CRISPR spell a new era for man?

  1. To me CRISPR is for those with the financial ability to afford it. CRISPR becomes an artificial issue as the changing of a child would mean there is a reduced resemblance to its parents. Who is the child to resemble if genes have been selectivity modified for parental preference. Therefore, regulations should be implemented whereby only the elimination of diseases in a potential victim would warrant the use of CRISPR.

    I find this form of technology interesting however, on a religious point of view, this looks to me as humans PLAYING God. It is against nature and the balance between life and death. As a devote Christian we are not authorised to make decisions like this. Also, the more we tamper with genetics, we don’t truly understand the side effects of what we do for generations to come. More so, there are reports where the removal of unfavoured cells have been attempted, which then lead to other problems emerging, which weren’t expected.

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  2. The writers present a compelling argument on the future use of CRISPR and its implications to the public. There is an obvious upside to using CRISPR; prevention of diseases and also targeting specific cells in the enhancing certain areas in the human body. Personally, i feel that the public should be allowed the option to make use of this tool because most carriers of terminal diseases would prefer not to have these diseases. If this tool is to be for public use, then it should not be available to genetically alter trivial problems. CRISPR should be regulated properly so that it is not abused by certain advantaged individuals to create the ‘perfect’ child; a child with advanced intellectual capabilities, ‘coloured’ eyes etc.
    However, the argument that the long term effect on the overall population is also an aspect that should be considered; how would having genetically altered humans affect the present structure of the human population? Also, genetically modifying humans is primarily against nature and could result in disastrous results in the results. To be honest, we would like to think that CRISPR would be used appropriately but in reality, it would probably be misused in a way. In a world where money can buy almost anything, it is highly probable that money would be used to buy their way into genetically modifying their child according to their specification.
    Therefore, if this tool ends up being implemented in the real world, they have to be cautious: it has to be used appropriately and for the proper reasons.

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  3. From its definition, CRISPR is a ’tool’ which ‘could’ allow genetic engineers to basically ‘edit’ a person. Let’s pause for a moment to think about what this could actually mean for the human race.

    From a marketing view, it is a good tool to sell to the public simply because of its ability to make humans better than they currently are. However, as highlighted by its authors one can seem that its seems this tool is going to be questionable from an ethical and moral standpoint. The article also states its obvious advantages- especially when it comes to detecting and correcting flaws in the health of people. Nonetheless, the danger of exposing human beings to the ability to sort of ‘play God’ poses a great risk.

    The authors also highlighted the relative lack of availability to the world as a whole, if human beings in some parts of the world can be modified to be perfect, then what would happen to the underdeveloped countries- as we all know that this might only be available and affordable for the rich and powerful citizens.

    As the article also highlighted, the dimensions of human interactions would greatly change. Even without a ‘human editing tool’ there are still people who feel that their race has more intellectual capacity than the other or that their race is better than the other. Now we can start to imagine another dimension of segregation and discrimination.

    On the issue of dwindling resources on earth, if some of human race decides to head to space it really is up to them as to how they want to adjust to life there. CRISPR could be used fundamentally for people with the intention to live in the other side of the universe. It should however not be implemented for humans who intend to stay on earth.

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    1. I really like your point about how there are already people who believe they are inherently better than others. CRISPR may really just be another tool to further widen this span of such discrimination. If humans have not been able to solve issues like racism for centuries, wouldn’t it just be like further “adding fuel to the flame” by introducing such an ethically uncertain tool?

      You raise another very interesting suggestion of CRISPR being used only for humans who decide to go to space, as it could present a clean slate for them to decide on their own societal norms without the biases that already exist in the world today. Very interesting discussion – certainly made me think a bit deeper as to the exact implications and possibilities of employing this technology.

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  4. This is really treading on very shaky grounds! There is a need to balance the perceived benefit of this scientific breakthrough against issues bordering Moral Ethics a real risk of irresponsible use and attendant consequence of such abuse which could very easily spiral into an uncontrollable hydra-headed Monster that would be IMPOSSIBLE to control!

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  5. A very well-written and exhaustive article, however, it would have been good to see more on the progress-to-date of CRISPR rather than just the ‘speculated benefits’ of what seems to be at present just a concept. At the moment it sounds like this ‘wonder tool’ that will solve all the world’s problems. But where does it end? Where do we stop? Who decides where to draw the line? There are a number of factors to consider.
    Firstly, regarding the physical appearance enhancement. Who are we to say what features are better than others? The world was created this way for a reason, way beyond superficiality. There is beauty in our diversity. Looking at the way our society responds to fads and fashion, there is a danger of creating these ideal models that everyone will try to be or have their children engineered to. How does a parent start off the journey of motherhood or fatherhood by changing their child as if they are not good enough. “I’ll love you more if your eyes were blue and not green”, “I’ll love you more if you were a boy not a girl”…the list is endless. Making a choice like that, what happens when the child is born with a feature which hadn’t crossed your mind to have changed. Our focus should be on the spirit/soul/mind of the child and their contribution to society. There are countless examples of people who are far from the world’s idea of perfection, yet they have been inspirations to so many people.
    Secondly, on the issue of suffering, the cure for cancer? That would be ground breaking! The cure for any disease would definitely be a step in the right direction. What about the accessibility of the procedure, would this mean that the rich will be cured of all ailments and the poor left to die? I don’t buy the idea of this being a non-elitist concept. It will be just one more thing that a large population of the world won’t have access to. Also, to remove suffering in such an unnatural way, is to tamper with our humanity. Again, there are people who have shown great courage in their suffering and been able to impart valuable life lessons to those around them. Suffering can always be turned into something positive, it elicits care and compassion, it puts other life problems in perspective, it reminds us to make time for family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, I, as much as the next person, if not more, would want to end the suffering in the world. But for now, while it’s still here, I just thought I’d point out the good that can be found in suffering.
    Finally, more intelligent human beings sadly does not mean wiser human beings. Wisdom comes from discipline and that is something no man-made tool will ever be able to give. Intelligent people can still be selfish, proud and self-centred. There is a need to explore what a new found intelligence would mean for our society. At first glance it seems to be all-positive, but what are the limits, and who decides who gets what level. Are we really going to let money be the deciding factor?
    Bringing all these things together, I understand how people might be drawn into thinking this is a tool that should have been implemented yesterday! I deliberately typed this comment with a sprinkling of questions because I think this points to the fact on ground which is, we simply don’t know, nobody really knows the extent of the social and psychological impact such a tool will have. So I will end with a final question, Are we really prepared to take that risk?

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    1. Thanks for the lovely feedback. You raise a valid a point about tampering with nature – as much as we would like to get rid of suffering, is this something that must exist for balance in the world? What do we upset by modifying one aspect with a tool such as CRISPR… it could really escalate into a sort of butterfly effect in which one minute change could lead to disastrous results later on.

      In terms of the up-to-date progress of CRISPR, the UK has recently legalized its testing on human embryos for research purposes only, whilst it is still currently completely banned in the US. Personally, I am not certain I agree with the UK’s approach on this, as I do not believe enough ethical discussions and involvement of stakeholders have occurred to already start trialing CRISP on humans – no matter the purpose.

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  6. ‪CRISPR as a tool is intrinsically good. It provides a chance for great strides in disease prevention and could rid humans of some of the major defects. However, in agreement with Kant’s theory of ethics, the ethical argument for technology will rest on its accessibility. If many cannot benefit from this technology it poses a dilemma. Proper regulation will need to be employed to ensure accessibility however without proper regulation, CRISPR as a tool could be used unethically. Sometimes advancement in technology must be a discussion of why instead of why not. Scientists must know that just because we can do things doesn’t mean we should ‬

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  7. Technically, it will become a reality sooner than most expect. No matter how many regulations are in place, some company will take it to market.
    That’s why I call for a very proactive approach in creating a policy framework to control these technologies.
    Think Tanks should develop such a framework and then, by raising public awareness and increasing lobbying efforts, take it to politics.

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  8. The CRISPR tool is obviously one that could change the world as we know it. Yes it would be very beneficial to the world considering the fact that it has the ability to treat terminal diseases; diseases that have killed millions of people because no cure has been discovered. If that was all it could do then I would have no reservations supporting this tool a 100%. The fact that it can enhance human abilities raises a lot of concerns. The CRISPR is without a doubt going to be taken advantage of. There’s no regulatory board or amount of regulation that can prevent this from happening. This would upset the balance of nature and create unnecessary chaos in the world as you would find a lot of people trying to create the perfect babies amongst other things. Also, the side effects this tool would have on people whose genes have been altered whether for medical or superficial reasons, has not been stated. Before we begin to get excited about this mind blowing tool that could cure cancer and perform a lot of wonders, we should ask ourselves.. do the pros outweigh the cons? In the long run would it have done more harm than good? The answer to me is clear.

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  9. CRISPR is definitely a revolutionary discovery in the field of genetic engineering and without doubt has great potential to make extraordinary changes in the world. While I agree with all the positive outcomes that can come out of this. The ethical issues, in my opinion, outweigh the potential benefits. Also one key question I feel that people fail to ask is, how can we be a 110% sure that this modification to remove the problematic gene that let’s say causes cancer wouldn’t have a more severe consequence and could potentially lead to a more serious and deadly ailment? In the end, aren’t we just subjecting babies to a life that they didn’t bargain for?

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  10. Well-grounded arguments! Though this technology can lead to unprecedented advancements in medical treatment, there are huge ethical issues shadowing it. The most obvious: ‘is it right to play god’. Should couples be allowed to enter clinics with a checklist, demanding how they want their child to look like. This technology can easily be exploited and misused, especially by those are wealthy, therefore there should be stringent regulations imposed to constraint its use. The development of ‘superhumans’ can even stimulate a global arms race which can lead to plethora of political and economic consequences. For now, CRISPR should only be used to eliminate life-threatening genetic disorders with mutual agreement between all nations, that it will be accessible to all , not just the few.

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  11. Very interesting article! CRISPR is definitely a revolutionary tool in the field of genetic engineering and it bring us the possibility of end to the problem of most of illnesses with no apparent cure.

    Moreover, it could be a controversial issue about huma ethics. However I find particulary interesting the way you introduce the ethic of Kant in order to give a chance of that kind of new science improvements.

    In my oppinion, I find CRISPR not very developed yet it would have been good to see more on the progress of this tool to talk about the hipothetical impact on the society, but this article is a brilliant start.

    It is not something about ‘editing’ the human being but also it is an open door of all of people who die because there is not any treatment to help.

    I hope this kind of discoverement would help us to end to the suffer of all the patients in the most ethical way and not to create a new ‘race’ of elite.

    Congratulations! Well-grounded arguments!

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  12. Have read lots about the moral complications of CRISPR. We live in a world of ifs and buts and maybes ( watch the news; listen to our politicians )! We don’t know what’s around the corner and we moralise from within our safety nets and with our self assuredness, have the temerity to predict a future with CRISPR that’s anything but positive. I wonder how many thirty something year olds with a terminal illness or parents of a young child with months to live would react given the opportunity to benefit from CRISPR. I think taking the moral high ground and hazarding guesses about humanities future would be their last consideration.

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  13. Should the use of CRISPR be permitted? What are the ethical implications of employing this technology?

    One must approach these question by distinguishing between therapy and enhancement. Effectively two uses of CRISPR have been identified, the first is “Removal of disease carrier cells in a person’s DNA” This can be categorized as Therapy. The second is the “Enhancement of the human anatomy” This of course will naturally be categorized as Enhancement.

    While therapy is good, enhancement is morally wrong. The use of CRISPR to heal a disease such as cancer will be to restore the patient to his normal human functioning. Whereas, the use of CRISPR as a mode of enhancement of the human anatomy will be to assume that the individual’s normal stated is flawed and lacking and in effect an alteration to remedy this assumption would mean an alteration of the individual in a way that was never intended by God – God, who has carefully crafted all human beings with a unique beauty and in His own design. Enhancement destroys the inherent dignity and worth of an individual by rejecting his natural biology.

    Having drawn this distinction I will conclude by stating that so long as CRISPR is aimed at the natural development of the human being e.g. to cure or treat a disease or disability, its use should be permitted. i.e. for therapy alone and not for enhancement. A healthy person has no need of genetic enhancement. Let’s not play God who has intentionally created each individual with his/her own unique beauty. No individual is permitted to point a finger at a healthy individual and label them as flawed or ugly not even the individual himself. Human beings are not allowed to dictate or define the standards of physical beauty as true beauty is not physical and cannot be seen. The dignity, integrity and personality of each and every individual must be upheld at all times.

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  14. This is a really interesting topic and definitely looks like something that can be utilised in the future. My only worry is that with the elimination of disease will mean that the population is going to increase and further put strain on a world that is all ready struggling. I understand that space is an option but so much money will be needed to do this so is it really the best option? Overall it messes with my morals but I suppose I’m not in a position to speak about the technology when I haven’t suffered from a debilitating disease first hand, I’m simply not sure where I would create the line between being a help or a hindrance to the human race.

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  15. Good article and raises a lot of interesting points about genetic modification! There are clearly a l0t of different viewpoints and different applications to its use that need to be considered. I think development of CRISPR is crucial!

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  16. Well written with some interesting arguments.
    I agree with the statement that it should be allowed due to its ability to eliminate life threatening diseases, if you had the tools to save a significant percentage of the population from illnesses such as cancer surely you would use it?
    However, I believe that although it has the potential to revolutionise medicine, strict guidelines should be put in place BEFORE its introduction. For example, there should be a law preventing its misuse, especially wealthy individuals wanting to customise their children. it should be used only for treatment of what would otherwise be life ending disease.
    for moral and ethical reasons, the use of crispr could also only be limited to developed humans, rather than the fetus. It can be argued that intervention at this level is ‘playing god’. This would again also prevent unregulated customisation of children by parents.
    hopefully these boundaries can be set before crispr gets into the wrong hands. otherwise there could be a whole new meaning to ‘survival of the fittest’

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    1. Thanks for your comment Vicki, my ethical views on the topic align with yours I feel, with some potential differences. I think you are right when considering the possibility of curing cancer, that the tool must be used and you raise a good point in regards to the guidelines to stop the elitist use of CRISPR.

      However, I do believe with your ethical standpoint to only use CRISPR on developed humans that it could hold back the progress and not reach the tools full potential. I do see how it could be playing GOD but it could be so beneficial to us for the human race. Hence why this choice will have to be analysed in great detail to make sure CRISPR is used appropriately. It is a huge ethical decision.

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  17. Very-well written and interesting article!
    CRISPR can indeed have a significantly impact on reducing diseases in the future. However, as you mentioned, it needs adequate regulation before the public can access it, to maximise social welfare.
    Also, concerning the “moral issues”, i’m afraid that this will trigger a heated public and political discussions. Although this might be less problematic than it seems if the governments prohibit individuals or firms to create “Superhumans” but only focus on treatments to prevent diseases.

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  18. It would be interesting to see exactly where the line might be drawn as far as the eradication of disease is concerned. Life threatening diseases are one thing, but what about asthma, poor eyesight, etc? At what point do we say CRISPR is not appropriate? It’s safe to say that this is a very grey area.

    The point about CRISPR potentially being a necessity for man in space is very interesting. It could be argued that the formation of outer-Earth colonies would be the biggest advancement in human history and possibly ensure mankind’s existence even after the Earth has reached its limits. If CRISPR is necessary to achieve this, one could argue that no cost is too great, in fact the costs of not pursuing it could be potentially disastrous for us as a species.

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  19. Very well written article! CRISPR technology has the potential for major advancements in how we study human disease, aging, and development. However, I think that there is still a lot more information needed about human genetics and the potential outcomes of CRISPR editing before we jump to the conclusion that CRISPR is the answer to all of our problems.
    As a scientist, I know it to be true that there are many factors that influence gene expression that would need to be closely analyzed before we do any human testing. Genetic environment, transcriptional/translational processes, and physical environment are all factors that influence what proteins actually get produced from the genome and take effect in the body. I think that before we begin utilizing CRISPR, we need to have an in-depth understanding of how all of the other genetic machinery works. This would reduce the risk of negative effects due to CRISPR gene editing, and potentially make it easier to accept CRISPR from a moral standpoint.
    Additionally, I think this technology should be used from a clinical perspective and not from a point of vanity. “Designer babies” using CRISPR – where we would be able to choose physical traits – should not be a focus of this project, and instead we should use it almost exclusively for the eradication of cancer, Alzheimers, and other diseases with strong heritability.
    Although ethical concerns may be slowing the advancement of this particular technology, I think it is extremely important not to push for its utilization until it is studied more closely and guidelines for its use are created.

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  20. I think the ethical qualms for CRISPR are too large. Like the article states the long term effects are unknown and will not be for generations, the positives are enormous and beneficial to the population both socially and economically. As a merit good I can see future governments subsidysing or even fully paying for CRISPR treatment in the same way they use vacations. My reasons for not supporting this comes from an humanaterian academic background rather than a scientific one and so what strikes me is the possibility of the elites becoming genetically superior and the social fallout this will cause. If we look at our history when humans felt radically superior it often led to devastating consequences such as slavery or the holocaust and with actually scientific evidence to back people’s claim to being superior then the consequences could be even worse. The article does touch on this and I feel genetic altering should be for all or none and as the cost is likely to be too high for all to have genetic tampering should not take place.

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  21. It’s fascinating how much technology has truly advanced. I think CRISPR has its advantages such as the removal of disease carrying cells or space living. However,with this type of advanced technology; the disadvantages seem to outweigh the benefits. It’s troubling thinking what might happen if it gets into the wrong hands- creation of superhumans, possible illegal human testing, future discrimination, misuse . The line between the use of the tool to eradicate diseases and shallow (self benefitting) uses is very thin.
    I propose (strict) laws be made and passed, explicitly defining conditions the tool be used for, if it were to be done.

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  22. It is very easy to say yes to new technology that could be used to treat disease, but an ethical, legal framework should be implemented to prevent abuse of such technology. Cases already exist where the ethics are debatable, e.g., gender selection on cultural or religious grounds, and the production and destruction of embryos to harvest tissue.
    We should not allow big multinational companies to take control of health issues because the maximisation of profits for the shareholders is not necessarily in the best interests of the patient. After all, a healthy individual is of little value to a pharmaceutical company. New technologies are invaluable and offer enormous benefits to mankind, but we need to be vigilant to ensure that they are not hijacked by big business, as has happened in the past.
    For most of its history the US Patent Office refused to grant patents on life-forms. This changed in 1980 when General Electric developed a Pseudomonas bacterium to be used in cleaning up oil spills. The agriculture company Monsanto took this precedent and ran with it. Not only did they patent seeds, they also imposed restrictive licensing agreements on farmers that prohibited them from saving seeds from one crop to plant the following season. Farmers are required to purchase fresh seed each year. Monsanto have aggressively protected their newly-aquired rights, and have used their powerful corporate lobbyists to further consolidate their position. Laws have been introduced in the US to make it illegal to “trade” in seeds without a permit. This includes a gardener giving seeds to a neighbour in a leafy suburb. The world food supply is rapidly becoming the province of corporate greed.
    And how, you may ask, does this pertain to CRISPR? Well, last year the giant German healthcare company Bayer announced a $66 billion take-over of Monsanto. Could we soon be in violation of patent law if we administer first aid to a neighbour?

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  23. As someone who has basic scientific knowledge, the post did a great job at simplifying complex terminology so that someone like me could understand it. CRISPER seemingly has interesting benefits for the future of the human race, but how do we make sure it has a wide a reach as possible? And, what about the ethical issues of parents changing the DNA of their child? By being selective about the genes our children inherit, don’t we risk removing any differences between us? We will end up selecting the characteristics society deems “attractive”, so even though stopping men from balding is a great thing for V05, it is us choosing what we deem to be a superior human. So, how do we regulate the technology to guarantee it is used for its purpose of eradicating disease like AIDS?

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  24. From the first sentence, my only thought was “this could go wrong”. I do believe that the fight against diseases should benefit from scientific progress. I do think that, if it could help cure cancer, then CRISPR should be used. But it should not go further than that.
    Most inventions start with a good intention, but there is always someone, somewhere, that will use it for bad reasons. CRISPR is good material for a great dystopia. If you can make us stronger, then you can also choose to make us weak. And the idea that you can have that kind of power is really not one that makes me see the future in an optimistic way.

    When it comes helping us travel further in space, adapt better and faster, this is an interesting perspective. However, it makes me sad that we are more focused on how to escape the Earth than on how to protect it.

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  25. Genetic engineering, whether we like it or not, is going to become a huge part of our society. The application of it will become common practice even if now it is a taboo subject that the majority of the public are sceptical over. This is similar to the way that IVF is now a common second option for those who are able to conceive naturally. As the use of CRISPR on life critical medical procedures, such as cancer, becomes common it is likely that public perception will sway in favourably.

    This means that even if stringent regulations are brought in for the UK but other countries are less strict people will simply use these procedures in conditions we cannot control or may not be favour. This will also extend the arguments that this technology will only be acessible for the upper classes.

    This leads me to think that the only solution is to allow the use of CRISPR providing that it can be proven to be safe.

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  26. I agree that the speed of development of CRISPR has made it difficult for appropriate regulations to be constructed and implemented, this is evident from the fact that in America it is currently possible to purchase CRISPR home kits complete with instructions. These kits allow individuals to make a minor genetic modification in harmless bacteria. Currently this so called ‘biohacking’ is harmless due to the constraints of working in a home environment and the major costs associated with effective research. In the future, however, problems may arise when technology seen as currently ‘cutting edge’, becomes affordable. There may be a potential for individuals or groups of people with malicious intent to cause harm through the use of genetically engineered organisms. This is a possibility that needs to be taken seriously. Also, the concept of ‘designer babies’ is troubling and technically possible and so adequate regulations considering the ethical implications should also be taken very seriously.

    However, increased regulations governing the use of CRISPR would increase the difficulty in using CRISPR for genuine research and so a balance is required to prevent harmful use without slowing potentially lifesaving research. Many human diseases are polygenic, whereas CRISPR would only be effective in treating monogenic diseases by editing single genes, so the potential for CRISPR to cure more complex genetic diseases is limited. Having said that, monogenic diseases do exist and so CRISPR may help in these cases. Probably the more effective use of CRISPR is the ability to modify genes (knockouts/ mutations) in order to infer the function of genes, and so if CRISPR was too heavily regulated much scientific research would be slowed due to the reliance on alternative, less effective methods to modify genes.

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  27. Humans cannot impose their will on others so however you look at it this process would mean forcing genetic engineering on babies who have not concnted (as is abortion under the same reasoning)
    So who would be accountable if something went wrong. Say they “edit the human genome preciscely” but it goes wrong to such an extent the quality of life of the victim is adversely affected. What will/can they do to rectify the error. Will tax payers be forced to pay for any compensation of such errors?
    They mention cancer, they say they can stop it multiplying – how?
    If they cannot understand it enough to prevent cells going cencerous how can they assert they have the understanding to prevent it multiplying?
    I don’t see any evidence for their very strong and bold statements.
    Have they tested this on willing humans to know they can “edit the human genome with precision”?
    Have they successfully stopped cancer cells multiplying?
    Have they successfully done this on other species?
    How would they like it if I forced my version of perfect human on them?
    Are they willing to use themselves/ their own childeren as test subjects?

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  28. Ethically this seems to me to have many dangers. Consequently, it would be very difficult to see how it could be used.

    However this technology is used, it would seem to reduce biodiversity by controlling genetics. Biologically, environmental adaptations are linked with genetic selectivity. The strength of organisms resilience to unpredictable environmental change lies in the diversity of the genetics. I think that maintaining human biodiversity is essential for long-term adaptations to environmental change.

    It is inevitable that the technology is used by the military. They have a long history of trying everything to gain a military advantage. An example being the use of amphetamines in the Second World War to keep soldiers and pilots awake and hyped up. Everybody did it, and the consequence was a drug problem in society.

    Obviously building a human fighting machine, a perfect physical specimen, that never sleeps, remains alert, has no sense of self-preservation etc. is going to be attempted. I can see the military parade in North Korea in my mind right now. I bet America is seeking to capture the technology for the military to play with as I write.

    Better. Quite a difficult thing to define. A better human being is only better in one respect. Genetic manipulation to eliminate disease, sounds on the face of it an excellent idea. Arguably a human product may be considered biomechanically as better quality with or without a particular genetic pattern. That may be a permanent solution to a problem for that individual, but it won’t fix other issues for the individual, or many issues of the remaining 10^10 individuals that will occupy the planet by 2050. Issues arising or future individuals are not predicted, in particular the offspring from a repaired individual might discover catastrophic side-effects. Thalidomide as an example springs to mind.

    Overall, as with most technologies, it is a double-edged sword with benefits and abuses available. The potential for impact from abuses seems high, and uncontrolled. Within the medical field there may be ethical constraints that can be applied. In military, commercial and agricultural use it is easy to see that abuse will occur. I doubt that much control can be applied, and in the long run I think that there are bound to be some devastating and catastrophic impacts.

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