What are genes and genes editing? Briefly explain the promises and challenges associated with it. (200 W)

Source:

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/op-ed-snap-a-reckless-experiment-on-gene-edited-babies/

 

Model Answer:

Gene is a unit of heredity which is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring.

It contains the bio-information that defines any individual. Physical attributes like height, skin or hair colour, more subtle features and even behavioural traits can be attributed to information encoded in the genetic material.

Gene Editing is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed or altered at particular locations in the genome.

Several approaches of genome editing have been developed. A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9 which is faster, cheaper, more accurate and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

Promises and Challenges of Gene Editing:

The promises of such gene-editing are boundless. Over a dozen clinical trials are currently on to treat diseases like HIV, multiple myeloma and other forms of cancer, using the Crispr-Cas9 editing system. But none of them involve editing the so-called human germ-line. Instead, they have restricted themselves to fixing genetic flaws in sick adults.

Editing of gene also involve moral and ethical issues. For example: Recently, a Chinese Scientist deactivated a gene in two human embryos, which means that the changes made could be inherited by the next generation. This violates the ethical principles as till now we don’t know enough about the risks of such findings and the act of Chinese Scientist is considered too early for germline editing.

Concerns over embryo gene-editing:

Not as precise: One pitfall of embryo gene-editing is that it is not as precise as we need it to be today. Studies have shown that the technology can result in unintended mutations, which in turn can cause cancers.

Danger of mosaicism: In which some cells inherit the target mutation, while others don’t.

Other Prominent Concerns:

  • The error-rates of Crispr are falling with each passing year. But the scientists aren’t in the clear yet.
  • Even when gene-editing becomes fool-proof, the decision to edit embryos will still be a weighty one.
  • This is because, today, scientists are far from understanding how exactly individual genes influence phenotypes, or the visible traits of people.
  • Every gene likely influences multiple traits, depending on the environment it interacts with.
  • This makes it hard to predict the ultimate outcome of an embryo-editing exercise without decades of follow-up.
  • Every gene influences such trade-offs, which scientists barely understand today.
  • This is why several scientific societies have advised abundant caution while fiddling with the human germ-line.

Way Forward:

  • In a 2017 report, the U.S.’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said such an intervention would be defensible only in very rare situations, where no alternative exists.
  • China’s incident shows it is time to translate these advisories into regulations.
  • Unless this happens, the Crispr revolution could well go awry.

Conclusion:

Gene Editing is a good method to alter the genome in individual giving the solution from diseases. However, such an action at present is unethical as there is no proved result and experiences. This can work in two ways: either will be beneficial in curing the disease or can become the reason for the generation of some grave diseases or new illness in human. This has both potential to transform or potential to make human vulnerable and hence very cautious steps are needed towards such experiments.

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