The traditional health structure is at the point of entering the domain of molecular medicine. The vast knowledge and continuous research can now illustrate the procedures that can alter DNA coding. The remarkable capacity genome editing and additional correlated technologies have had affected various areas of biology. While this is so, there are also moral concerns specifically with respect to the likelihood of producing genetic modifications in human genes. Debates of how this technology is to be utilized in the future need to acknowledge the severe societal repercussions of human genome editing.
The rapid advances in biotechnology have made it possible to develop technical gears that seemed like science fiction years ago. Gene modification allows the structural change of the genetic context of humans and other living organisms to determine the features of their offspring (De Lecuona 2017, p 673). The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/cas9 (CRISPR/Cas9) gene-editing procedure forms part of the molecular tools available to researchers and is extensively employed in the scientific community. The methods used to edit genes have advanced from the previous attempts case in point, homing endonucleases, and nuclease technology that seemingly suffered from lesser specificity due to their off-gauge side effects to more advanced genome modification. The CRISPR/Cas9 is used for human health in various ways first, for gene alteration in embryos with the purpose of fixing pathogen mutations in the offspring. Second, as an examination procedure for utilization in embryos to aid in comprehending healthy growth, define the form of human illness, and producing new treatments. Third, it is used in gene modification of somatic cells to inhibit diseases.
All over the globe, researchers keep discussing the opportunities that gene editing has to offer. While there may be binding concerns regarding gene editing, they do not warrant a ban given their projected potential. Some of the pros of gene editing include making treatment less expensive. Gene alteration of human embryos can foster a better perspective of diseases and novel cure that does not change people. Gene-modified embryo stem cell strands that defend against illnesses can aid in gaining insights into the origin of viruses. The knowledge can be used to develop drugs at an affordable cost.
Additionally, genome editing can be used to treat hereditary disorders using the germline technique. For example, conditions such as cystic fibrosis can be cured by gene editing. CRISPR could be utilized to modify disease-causing genes in the embryo by removing the defective strand from the genetic code of an individual’s future offspring as well. Given that germline DNA is passed down to generations, positive alterations are transmitted down the line (Rossant 2018, p 1). Germline editing could potentially reduce or even eradicate the occurrence of any severe genetic disorders minimizing human suffering globally.
Furthermore, by compromising the DNA of living beings, gene editing can have macro-environmental impacts. The enhancement of the genetic induction is an illustration of its systemic use. Through the induction mechanism, altered organisms can be released into the environment to circulate a particular genetic variant that triumphs over those already present in the surroundings.
Despite the potential that gene editing tools hold, in the wrong hands, they can have grave repercussions. The prospects for gene editing are not risk-free nor assured. Some of the cons of gene editing include the risks of on and off-target modifications with unpremeditated outcomes. The making of mosaics for both altered and unaltered cells prompt changes that may trigger unpredictable consequences for the embryo (De Lecuona et al. 2017, p 678). In off-target modifications, the changes occurring include inactivation of vital genes, reconfiguration of chromosomes, and inapt stimulation of cancer triggering genes.
Moreover, gene editing may impact diversity. Diversity of all organisms is fundamental to evolution. Genetically modifying the human genus will pose negative effects on diversity, similar to cloning. The future generations ought to be given a chance to see the variety on earth.
Nonetheless, gene editing poses major ethical problems. The modification of human genomes is unnatural and can be seen as playing God. It affects future generations who have no say to the alterations being made to their DNA. The opponents form their basis on the fact that natural is integrally good, and illnesses are natural. While the observed increase in lifespan is already posing social problems, the question that pervades is how the overpopulated earth would be when the scientists remove all the diseases.
Lastly, human genome editing would facilitate social inequity. There would-be long-term effects of imposing prejudices and preferences on the genetic composition of future generations (Rossant 2018, p 1). Besides, groups that have less power and are discriminated against would-be profoundly affected while injustices such as racism and ableism will be augmented and even bring forth new forms of inequity, leading to a novel type of eugenics.
de Lecuona, I., Casado, M., Marfany, G., Baroni, M.L. and Escarrabill, M., 2017. Focus: Genome Editing: Gene Editing in Humans: Towards a Global and Inclusive Debate for Responsible Research. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 90(4), p.673.
Rossant, J., 2018. Gene editing in human development: ethical concerns and practical applications. Development, 145(16), p.dev150888.