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  • Writer's pictureFolakemi Fregene

Effects of CRISPR & Oncology Research & Treatment

The world of medicine is a constant and ever changing field. With the brightest minds constantly coming up with new innovations every day, it’s no surprise that what once was considered impossible, is now in fact possible. Genetics is the science of genes and how traits are passed on from one generation to the next. DNA controls the growth of everything and influences individual traits, like gender or skin tone, height etc. Changes in genes can prevent the gene from doing its job the way it normally would. Some changes can lead to incorrectly formed proteins that can't perform their functions. Genetic variations can affect incorrectly formed proteins that cannot perform their functions correctly. They can also affect how people respond to certain medications and their likelihood of developing diseases. Researchers can then use DNA sequencing to identify variations in a person’s genome.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It is a revolutionary genetic modification technology in molecular biology used to edit genes. This system is derived from bacteria which is used as a defense against invading viruses. It takes DNA from a virus’s genome and then uses that to recognize invading virus’s DNA. Think of CRISPR Cas 9 like a molecular pair of scissors, it then proceeds to go through long chains of DNA structures to find specific genes to edit. And so the DNA cutting enzyme is guided to a target site by an RNA based method to complete genetic changes. There are many benefits to CRISPR, for instance the possibility of eradicating diseases completely. Gene editing technologies have been incredibly useful in research and helping us understand things from the underlying genetic causes of diseases, to the fundamental mechanisms in cell biology. It is no doubt that CRISPR is a great breakthrough in the world of biotechnology, and can definitely open doors in the world of medicine, whether this be in treatments, cures, and prevention. For example, to be able to use this groundbreaking technology to perhaps target tumor cells and restore p53 to fix that mutation to make that cut with these molecular scissors.

However, there are numerous concerns and quandaries about the ethical side of CRISPR. For instance, is it okay for people to potentially edit embryos to create what some scientists are calling “the perfect human”? Would such possibilities be accessible to everyone or only the upper class? And even bigger societal concerns of is it okay to potentially eradicate diseases in an unethical way. The idea of being able to customize a child almost like how a child customizes their video game avatar is definitely dystopian to say the least. Potentially adding ‘upgrades’ or enhancements to edit genes. Could these “designer babies” out-compete non designer babies?

The problem with this concept is flawed because in most cases humans evolved based on their natural habitat and what they need to survive. Being able to customize genes so easily by playing god, doesn’t necessarily guarantee changes to help them survive. CRISPR has contributed to the revolutionary abilities of gene editing in this century, but there is still much research and development to be done.

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