The benefits of human gene editing far outweigh the risks because it can potentially provide a solution to an important problem, eradicating one of the world’s leading causes of death, one without a cure; cancer.Once thought of as science fiction, the ability to alter the human DNA is now within our reach due to the discovery of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), a molecular scissor that allows bacteria to cut DNA in very precise locations. (Barrangou ; Van Der Oost, 2013). Scientists have managed to harness that ability and started experiments with the aim of altering human DNA (Lowe, 2013).
Utilising CRISPR has allowed scientists to achieve significant breakthroughs in cancer research, such as decreasing the ability of cancer cells to multiply by editing its genetic structure (Aguirre, et al., 2016). This could potentially boost the effectiveness of current methods of cancer therapy (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, etc) as well as severely alleviate its side effects (Khan, et al., 2016). Globally, cancer is the second highest cause of death, 1 in 6 people alive will die from it (World Health Organisation, 2018). CRISPR might just be the biotechnological tool that we require to get one step closer in our fight against cancer.One argument against CRISPR is in its ethical use, specifically human germline editing – editing the genes of an egg, sperm or embryo – where any changes would be passed on to future generations (“What are genome editing”, n.
d.). One of ethical issues is that of consent, where future individuals would potentially have their genes modified without their approval (Yoon, 2016). However, one could argue that in certain cases, the issue of health should supersede that of the individual’s consent. In Iceland, through prenatal screening, almost 100 percent of women who received a positive test for Down syndrome during their pregnancy chose to abort the child, resulting in only 1 to 2 children born with Down syndrome each year. (Quinones & Lajka, 2017). This highlights that while we may not be able to seek the consent of future generations, we should ask ourselves if they would regret the way in which we changed their lives.In conclusion, CRISPR has phenomenal potential to improve the lives of not only current but future generations.
Undoubtedly, society would need to grapple with the ethical considerations, but I argue that the possibility of massively reducing human suffering should take precedence.(Total number of words for the above essay: 400)?ReferencesAguirre, A. J., Meyers, R. M., Weir, B. A., Vazquez, F.
, Zhang, C., Ben-David, U., . .
. Hahn, W. C.
(2016). Genomic Copy Number Dictates a Gene-Independent Cell Response to CRISPR/Cas9 Targeting. Cancer Discovery, 6(8), 914-929. doi:10.1158/2159-8290.cd-16-0154Barrangou, R., & Van Der Oost, J. (2013).
CRISPR-Cas systems: RNA-mediated adaptive immunity in bacteria and archaea. Heidelberg; New York: Springer.Khan, F. A.
, Pandupuspitasari, N. S., Chun-Jie, H., Ao, Z., Jamal, M., Zohaib, A., . .
. Shujun, Z. (2016). CRISPR/Cas9 therapeutics: A cure for cancer and other genetic diseases. Oncotarget, 7(32). Lowe, D. (2013).
CRISPR Takes Off. Retrieved from http://blogs.sciencemag.org.libproxy.smu.edu.sg/pipeline/archives/2013/09/05/crispr_takes_offQuinones, J.
, & Lajka, A. (2017). “What kind of society do you want to live in?”: Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing. Retrieved from https://www.
cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/What are genome editing and CRISPR-Cas9? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ghr.
nlm.nih.gov/primer/genomicresearch/genomeeditingWorld Health Organisation. (2018). Cancer.
Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer Yoon, J.
(2016). The Imperative Need to Consider the Bioethics of CRISPR-Cas9 Technology | NHSJS. Retrieved from http://nhsjs.com/2016/the-imperative-need-to-consider-the-bioethics-of-crispr-cas9-technology/?ReflectionOne of the main reasons that I chose the topic of CRISPR to write about was due to the possibility of it curing cancer (as mentioned in the essay). It is something genuinely important to me as many of my family members lost their fight to the disease, and that genetically, I and my future children will be at higher risk of contracting.
Determining the issue to write was straightforward in comparison to the difficulty of combing through sources for facts and simultaneously ensuring that those sources were credible. Tough as it was, I am now certainly more confident and well-equipped to search for credible sources in the future. Additionally, I have gained valuable knowledge with regards to sourcing, citing, referencing and even my topic, CRISPR.Another challenge that I was faced with for a long time was with regards to the word count of only 400 words. That parameter forced me to be especially concise and succinct with my sentences, and one which in hindsight I think I benefitted from a lot as I am certain that the ability to convey one’s message in as few words as possible will be an instrumental skill in the workforce. (Total number of words for the above reflection: 198)