Over the past ten years, the concept of gene editing started to take shape and achieve recognition in the medical, agricultural, and scientific fields. This is yet one more area that has been positively affected by major advances in technology. Genome editing technology is benefitting farmers who can sow hardy seeds that produce a higher food yield than untreated seeds, thus reducing food insecurity. However, concerns still exist with the possibility of unforeseen negative consequences when genome editing technology is used on humans. We explore the pros and cons of this technology.
New Genome-Editing Technologies
It was a major breakthrough for the new technology when the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority gave approval for the modification of human embryos in 2018. CRISPR is one of the best-known gene-editing tools available today. The Francis Crick Institute in the UK used the CRISPR-Cas9 to modify the genes responsible for diseases in this case. Flawed genetic code is edited so that it will not appear in the humans who emerge from those embryos, nor will it be repeated in future generations. This means that these subjects will not get the disease they were genetically programmed for.
CRISPR-Cas9, TALENs, and ZFNs are the most used genome editing technologies. Another example is the piggyBac Transposase/Transposon DNA Delivery System, which was involved in over 400 research studies. It has numerous applications and is designed as a gene editing platform that creates stable cell lines.
Areas Where Genome-Editing Technologies Are Being Used
Some of the areas where genome editing is taking place are cancer research and cardiovascular disease. It is also generating interest and studies in viral diseases and neurodegenerative conditions. Further applications occur in metabolic diseases and hereditary eye disorders.
Advantages of Genome-Editing Technologies
In one sense, genome editing is necessary as we have no other way to eliminate dangerous illnesses except for genetic engineering. This will allow us to eradicate these diseases from the generations to come.
CRISPR can modify T-cells to kill cancerous ones via immunotherapy. Surprisingly, the new technology is being utilized to formulate drugs. Inherited conditions like cystic fibrosis and diabetes can be prevented in the next generation and ultimately destroyed and cease to exist.
Both quality and length of life can be increased through genetic engineering. This is achieved by getting rid of diseases that compromise the enjoyment of life in the golden years.
Disadvantages of Genome-Editing Technologies
Genetic engineering presents an ethical dilemma for some people who feel that one should not tamper with nature. The response to this is that a diseased condition is not natural and survival of the fittest gives humans the know-how to eradicate these problems.
We don’t yet know enough to predict all the effects of our tampering. There is the possibility of us creating new diseases in place of the ones we destroy. It may take generations for all the outcomes to reveal themselves.
The non-affordability of genetic engineering for the common person may result in only the richest people being able to benefit from the technology.
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