By: Ananya Deepak
Fatimah, a 7-year-old girl woke up to go to the bathroom, but then, suddenly, her right side went numb, and she collapsed on the floor. She just had a stroke. After this incident, she was not allowed to go to school for several months because she had to stay at the hospital under close observation due to her illness. Fatimah was born with sickle cell anemia because both her parents had the sickle cell trait. Sickle cell anemia causes acute pain, strokes, and infections (“Mayo clinic”). She never got a normal childhood because of her genetic disorder. She was always in and out of hospitals rather than with friends. (“CDC”2018). An entire person’s life is so much more difficult just because of a single trait. What if we could eradicate that? What if this trait can be eliminated from a person’s genes? Gene editing is the answer, by just fixing a single mutation in the cell we can completely eradicate this genetic disorder allowing relief for millions of people. Gene editing should be accepted because it can not only help cure diseases, but it can also help bring back extinct or endangered species in the environment.
Genetic engineering is the future of medical technology that can help cure disorders such as HIV. There are 1.8 million children in the world who are living with HIV as of 2017, and all of these kids were infected by HIV-positive parents during pregnancy according to UNAIDS. However, this can all change due to a new discovery in gene editing. A scientist in China has already used gene editing technologies to help two baby girls of a father who is HIV-positive, by injecting HIV resistant genes into their embryos (“NPR”2018). This is known as human germline editing which is when they edit genes in the human embryo, and these edits pass on to new generations. This new discovery opens a whole new world of possibilities that may be able to cure genetic disorders like sickle cell anemia by correcting faulty genes in the embryo.
Furthermore, genetic engineering helps biodiversity. More than 200 species go extinct every year due to the continued destruction of the Earth. There are thousands of endangered species in the world today and we are the cause of that. Now we are trying to restore these species using different methods. The biggest reason why the native species are dying out is due to invasive species. With CRISPR/Cas9, which is a new gene editing technology, we can edit the DNA of invasive species so that they have infertile offspring which lowers the population (“Scientific American” 2016). Once the invasive species population is lowered, the native or endangered species will prosper again allowing the ecosystem to revert back to normal. Though, there’s a far more exciting, nerve-racking idea behind this. This fascinating idea is bringing back extinct species using CRISPR/Cas9. John Church, a geneticist in Harvard claims that he can bring the wooly mammoths back from extinction using gene editing in the next two years. He and a couple of other geneticists in Harvard have been planting wooly mammoth genes into the cells of Asian elephants so that they look and act like mammoths (“The Scientist”). If they succeed, then an animal that has been extinct for thousands of years will walk on Earth again. Now this makes you think, Jurassic Park really wasn’t too far from reality.
There are many ethical objections to gene editing that are slowing down the pace of genetic engineering, especially germline editing. As of 2014, 40 countries have banned research on germline editing. There are many safety concerns for gene editing, for example, if they edit in the wrong place, then it can lead to new mutations (“NIH” 2017). Though, gene editing, by using CRISPR/Cas9 is more precise than ever, and if these children have deadly genetic disorders, then parents will give their consent at any hope that their children can live happy, normal lives.
Gene editing should be allowed because of all the good it can do in the world. This new tech can save endangered species, and maybe even bring back extinct species which helps create a better environment. Not only does it help animals, but it helps humans as well. With gene editing, we can eradicate deadly genetic disorders that happen just due to one faulty gene. There are many ethical concerns while using this tech such as editing in the wrong place, but there’s a risk in everything, so if the guardians give their consent, then that means that they know the risk involved. Life is precious, whether it’s us or the environment or both, so we must do everything we can to help save it.
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