Thursday, March 23, 2017

Possibility of Wiping Out Malaria and Other Diseases with the CRISPR

What if it was possible to wipe out a disease that has caused so many lives to perish? Futurism magazine reports 584,000 people have died and 200 million have suffered from malaria in 2013. Evolutionary ecologist James Collins from Arizona State University believes scientists have the technology to wipe out the gene in mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite using the gene editing technique, CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). Specifically, the tool “gene drive”, it will increase the probability of a certain gene being inherited. Unlike in normal sexual reproduction where the offspring would inherit a random half of genes from each parent, this modified offspring would only receive genes the scientist chooses. Ensuring that the disease is completely eradicated in that population and for all generations to come.

Altering genes has uplifted controversies throughout the world. What gives scientists the right to alter another organism? There is always a possibility for error, such as an organism escaping the laboratory. What if this error occurs affects us all? Kevin Esvelt, a researcher at Wyss Institute rebuttals concerns explaining that any premature revealing to the outside world could be reversed with putting the same organism with altered genes out into the world. This would then cause the new genes to be inherited rather than the genes of the accidentally released organism.

I can understand why some would think using the CRISPR goes against nature, but if it is used to help millions of people I believe that the world should embrace it. There are obviously risks that must be taken, for example it should be placed in the right hands and used for good. We do not need someone getting ahold of this type of technology to spread diseases throughout animals or people.

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