Gene editing and manipulation is a newer, but rapidly growing field. We have the ability to change, add or delete genes in human embryos, adults and plants alike. We are going to explore both of these topics for this forum. You are to CHOOSE ONE of the ideas below and follow the direction.
Understand the methods and impacts of gene editing on humans and plants
Choice 1: Editing Human Embryos and Adults
With respect to gene editing in human embryos, most research is focused on fixing or removing harmful mutations that may cause diseases, but there are some fears of creating designer babies. In addition, we can edit the genes in adults, if we use a targeted approach. Read the articles below, and then respond to the prompt.
Pro and Con: Should Gene Editing be Performed on Human Embryos? Pro by Harris (2016) and Con by Darnovsky (2016).
A human has been injected with gene-editing tools to cure his disabling disease. Hereâ€™s what you need to know. (Kaiser, 2017) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/human-has-been-injected-gene-editing-tools-cure-his-disabling-disease-here-s-what-you
CRISPR fixes disease gene in viable human embryos (Ledford, 2017)
The first CRISPR edited babies are (probably) here. Now What? From: Science Friday
For your original post:
- Find a reputable resource, making sure to add an attribute or URL so that we can all view it, concerning gene editing in human embryos or adults.
- Make sure to add a descriptive title so that others know what you are discussing.
- Briefly summarize the main take home points of the research â€“ make sure to include scientific terminology and discussion (remember, we are in a biology class!).
- Some questions to consider: What is your take on the research? Are there any benefits and/or costs? Should we be focusing on this? Is there reason for concern?
Choice 2: Genetic Engineering of Plants
Genetically engineered crops are another controversial topic. They first began as a way to allow those in third world countries to grow crops that could survive in less than ideal conditions (such as drought tolerance, higher yield), and/or were higher in nutrition, meaning there was more benefit to each bite â€“ dubbed the â€œGreen Revolution.â€ You can read about it from Pingali (2012).
If you would like a little more background on genetic engineering in plants, read these resources:
Genetic engineering and GM crops (ISAAA, 2016)
Safety of genetically engineered foods (NRC, 2004)
Genetically modified plants and human health (Key, Ma & Drake, 2008)
For your original post:
- You are to find a resource, making sure to add an attribute or URL so that we can all view it, on genetic engineering of plants. You can choose a specific plant, or discuss the generic practice of modification â€“ but it must be different than anyone else in the class or you will not receive credit.
- Make sure the title of your post is descriptive so that others know what you are discussing.
- Briefly summarize the main take home points of the research â€“ make sure you use proper scientific terminology and discussion (remember we are in a biology class).
- Some questions to consider: Is it ethically responsible to engineer plants? Does it make a difference whether they are geared towards first or third world countries? Will they help or hinder our efforts to feed the ever-growing world population?
Darnovsky, M. (2016). Con: Do not open the door to editing genes in future humans. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/
Harris, J. (2016). Pro: Research on gene editing in humans must continue. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/
ISAAA. (2016). Genetic Engineering and GM Crops. Pocket K No. 17. Retrieved from http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/17/default.asp
Kaiser, J. (2017, Nov 15). A human has been injected with gene-editing tools to cure his disabling disease. Hereâ€™s what you need to know. Science. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/human-has-been-injected-gene-editing-tools-cure-his-disabling-disease-here-s-what-you
Key, S., Ma, J. K.-C., & Drake, P. M. (2008). Genetically modified plants and human health. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101(6), 290â€“298. http://doi.org/10.1258/jrsm.2008.070372
Ledford, H. (2017). CRISPR fixes disease gene in viable human embryos. Nature. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/news/crispr-fixes-disease-gene-in-viable-human-embryos-1.22382
National Research Council (US) Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health. (2004). Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). 2, Methods and Mechanisms for Genetic Manipulation of Plants, Animals, and Microorganisms. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK215771/
Pingali, P. L. (2012). Green Revolution: Impacts, limits, and the path ahead. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(31), 12302â€“12308. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0912953109
Minimum 250 words answer
Even writing that title out seemed unethical to me, but for this week I chose to research and write about the process of editing human embryos for genetic mutations. The main article I wanted to focus on talked about the research Shoukhrat Mitalipov is doing, based out of The Oregon Health and Science Institute in Portland. Seems like he and his team have found a way to lessen the chance of “off-target mutations” happening by injecting the egg at the same time the sperm fertilizes with it. It is allowing for more precise targeting of mutations. In this article I read that the United States doesn’t allow federal funds to aid in the research of human embryos, yet if it is privately funded then it is legal. Whereas in Sweden creating human embryos for the sole purpose of research is not legal. This research that Mitalipov’s team is doing might be considered the largest examination of genome-edited human embryos, but it is recommended that more research still needs to be done in order to know with certainty that off-target mutations are not taking place during editing.
I don’t negate the pros that could come out of some scientific research such as this, there are some terrible defects or mutations that I wouldn’t wish on anyone’s child that exist in this world. Yet it still doesn’t settle with me ethically to create embryos just to perform research on them and then waste them. I do wonder and worry about the creation of “designer babies” like this article talked about. Parents who can afford to strategically choose which traits they want to retain in their embryo and which to discard. I wouldn’t trade my 4 kids for the whole world, their quirks and all, but I have been so blessed to have 4 healthy children born without any defects or complications, I wonder if I would have the same stance if I hadn’t been so blessed?
A young teenager by the name of David was born with sickle cell anemia, an inherited disorder, and must undergo regular infusions for pain relief. This disease has also led to chronic and permanent damage to other organs within his body. Scientists, however, believe this potentially deadly genetic disease can be cured by deleting and repairing the mutated gene sequence of his DNA.
We’ve learned that DNA is genetically coded to make four proteins: adenosine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T), which are all arranged in a specific order. It is through this repetitive sequence of codes and patterns in DNA that CRISPR received its name: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. In simple terms, CRISPR gene editing can be accomplished by designing the right code for a mutated gene, using enzymes, then using that code to insert the correct DNA sequence. The costs associated with gene editing is prohibitive, however, and is estimated at being more than hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One “typo” in this sequence, however, can cause a mutation or become deadly, which is where the dilemma ensues. The technology is not fail-proof; one askew gene can have serious consequences. It is the equivalent of having a single wrong letter in a book containing six billion letters. The issues can compound exponentially.
We are all likely witnessing one of the most revolutionary advancements in modern technology when it comes to gene editing. However, scientists have only scratched the surface. Despite the cutting-edge technology, I believe scientists need to continue to refine the technology through additional research before it can be used in routine practice. The technology is necessary to find solutions to eradicating incurable diseases. The question then becomes, where is the line in the sand drawn? When it comes to designing DNA for desirable traits and characteristics, the technology is misused, and it has gone too far, in my opinion.
Enjoy the week,
Shwartz, M., Holley, J., & Archibald, T. (n.d.). CRISPR is a gene-editing tool that’s revolutionary, though not without risk. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2018winter/CRISPR-for…
Minimum 150 words answer to each.