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Ethical dilemmas created by gene editing pose potential problems




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From fiction to reality, gene editing in humans has become a possibility. Researchers at the University of Texas, led by Ilya Finkelstein, have been using and improving a gene-editing tool, CRISPR, in order to use it safely on humans.

For those who do not know, CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a family of DNA sequences that serves as a defense mechanism and has been transformed into a tool for gene-editing. It was used to create mosquitoes resistant to malaria. The mosquitos owning this new DNA transmitted 99 percent of it to their offspring even when mating with normal mosquitos.

CRISPR has the potential, thanks to the team of UT scientists, to create a safer gene-editing approach to curing life-threatening diseases such as cancer, HIV, blindness and many more. The quality of life of many people can be changed for the better with this great scientific advancement. This much is undeniable, but at what cost?

The success of CRISPR is breathtaking; however, it brings up ethical questions to the larger public. I can’t help but ask myself, are we ready to live in a world where people are judged by how improved their genetic code is? In a world where the division between the rich and poor is growing and dividing the population? We are not ready to face a greater inequality: a world where only those who can afford it can become genetically “superior.”

What about the diversity of human nature? Being different is not a bad thing. In fact, our differences are what make us strong and beautiful as human beings. It has been scientifically proven that GMOs lack genetic diversity. If CRISPR is improved, it will lead to humans losing their original nature and multiplicity.

Another question that arises is, what if people abuse the power of CRISPR on unwilling individuals? Questions about human modification have never been talked about until recently. In 2015, Chinese scientists made their tests public in which they used CRISPR to genetically modify human embryos, they opened a door towards an ethical debate that is still ongoing.The fictional idea of modifying human DNA has become a reality.

One of the co-founders of CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna proposed to adopt standards of efficiency as most of the Chinese scientific tests on the embryos failed. But the question of whether CRISPR works or not does not change the unethical aspect of testing embryos. The unborn babies are not able to consent to the test and to the permanent gene changes.

The National Academy of Science has approved and allowed embryo testing. It is understandable to see the beauty and the attractive aspect of progress, nonetheless, actual steps need to be made in order to prevent tests degenerating.

Even if their policies have changed and improved, such as only modifying genes on embryos with serious diseases if there is no other reasonable alternative, the CRISPR improvements will most likely make these regulations change on the long term.

Ethical debates and questioning about the future of genetically modified human shouldn’t be overlooked, even in the sake of progress by IEC’s (Independent Ethical Committee) across the world.

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Ethical dilemmas created by gene editing pose potential problems