November 16, 2015 12:21 AM Subscribe
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system."
The potential impact of CRISPR on the biosphere is equally profound. Last year, by deleting all three copies of a single wheat gene, a team led by the Chinese geneticist Gao Caixia created a strain that is fully resistant to powdery mildew, one of the world’s most pervasive blights. In September, Japanese scientists used the technique to prolong the life of tomatoes by turning off genes that control how quickly they ripen. Agricultural researchers hope that such an approach to enhancing crops will prove far less controversial than using genetically modified organisms, a process that requires technicians to introduce foreign DNA into the genes of many of the foods we eat...also btw...
Inevitably, the technology will also permit scientists to correct genetic flaws in human embryos. Any such change, though, would infiltrate the entire genome and eventually be passed down to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and every subsequent generation. That raises the possibility, more realistically than ever before, that scientists will be able to rewrite the fundamental code of life, with consequences for future generations that we may never be able to anticipate. Vague fears of a dystopian world, full of manufactured humans, long ago became a standard part of any debate about scientific progress. Yet not since J. Robert Oppenheimer realized that the atomic bomb he built to protect the world might actually destroy it have the scientists responsible for a discovery been so leery of using it.
- Meet one of the world's most groundbreaking scientists - "Zhang was 11 when he and his mother left China and settled in Des Moines, Iowa. A few years later, when he was in high school, she often waited in her car for hours while he worked late in a gene therapy lab. Driving home in the gathering dark one autumn evening, mother and son were struck by the sight of falling leaves, dead and dying after lives measured in mere months. They spoke about how little time anyone has, she recalled, and how easy it is for a life to disappear without the slightest trace that it had ever been. 'It just seemed important to me to try my best to make a difference', Zhang said."
- CRISPR-Cpf1 - "Cpf1 is a smaller and simpler enzyme (known technically as an endonuclease) than Cas9. That means it will be easier to deliver to the cells whose genes need modifying... as more gene-editing systems are discovered, it will be harder to monopolise their use via the patent system."
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