CRISPR: Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever

(Stem Cells News image)

Designer babies, the end of diseases, genetically modified humans that never age. Outrageous things that used to be science fiction are suddenly becoming reality. The only thing we know for sure is that things will change irreversibly.

Imagine you were alive back in the
nineteen eighties and were told the
computers would soon take over
everything from shopping to dating and
the stock market the billions of people
would be connected via kind of web that
she would own a handheld device orders
of magnitude more powerful than
supercomputers it would seem absurd but
then all of it habit science fiction
became our reality that we don’t even
think about it
whereas a similar point today with
genetic engineering so let’s talk about
it where it came from
what we’re doing right now and about a
recent breakthrough that will change how
we live and what we perceive as normal

humans have been engineering life for
thousands of years through selective
breeding we strengthened useful traits
and plants and animals we became very
good at this but never truly understood
how it works until we discovered the
code of life

deoxyribonucleic acid DNA a complex
molecule the guise of the growth
development function and reproduction of
everything alive information is encoded
in the structure of the molecule four
nucleotides our pad and make up a code
that carries instructions change the
instructions and you change the being
carrying it as soon as DNA was
discovered people try to think with it
in the 1960s scientists bombarded plants
with radiation to cause random mutations
in the genetic coat the idea was to get
a useful plant variation by pure chance
sometimes it actually worked too
in the seventies scientists inserted DNA
snippets into bacteria plants and
animals to study and modify them for
research medicine agriculture and for

the earliest genetically modified animal
was born in 1974 making mice a standard
tool for search saving millions of lives
early eighties we got commercial the
first patent was given for a microbe
engineered to absorb oil today we
produce many chemicals by means of
engineered life like life-saving
clotting factors growth hormones and
insolent all things we had to harvest
from the organs of animals before that
the first food modified in the lab went
on sale in 1994 the flavor saver tomahto
tomahto given a much longer shelf life
where an extra gene that suppresses the
build-up of a rotting enzyme but GM food
and the controversy surrounding them
deserve a video of their own in the
nineteen nineties there was also a brief
foray into human engineering to treat
maternal infertility babies were made
the carriage aneta information from
three humans making them the first
humans ever to have three genetic
parents today there are super muscled
pigs fast-growing salmon federalist
chickens and see-through frogs on the
fun side we made things go in the dark
fluorescent zebrafish are available for
as little as ten dollars all of this is
already very impressive but until
gene editing was extremely expensive
complicated and took a long time to do
this has now changed with a
revolutionary new technology now
entering the stage crisper overnight the
costs of engineering have shrunk by 99%
instead of a year
it takes a few weeks to conduct
experiments and basically everybody with
a lab can do it it’s hard to get across
how big a technical revolution crisper
is it literally has the potential to
change humanity forever
why did this sudden revolution happen
and how does it work
bacteria and viruses have been fighting
since the dawn of life so-called
bacteriophages or wages hunt bacteria in
the ocean pages kill forty percent of
them every single day pages do this by
inserting their own genetic code into
the bacteria and taking them over to use
those factories the bacteria tried to
resist but fail most the time because
their protection tools are too weak but
sometimes bacteria survive an attack
only if they do so can they activate
their most effective antivirus system
they save a part of the virus DNA in
their own genetic code in a DNA archive
called crisper here it’s stored safely
until it’s needed when the virus attacks
again the bacterium quickly makes an RNA
copy from the DNA archive and arms a
secret weapon a protein called Cass nine
the protein now scans the bacterium’s
inside for signs of the virus invader by
comparing every bit of DNA it finds to
the sample from the archive when it
finds a 100-percent perfect match
it’s activated and cuts out the virus
DNA making it useless protecting the
bacterium against the attack
what’s special is that cast nine is very
precise almost like a DNA surgeon the
revolution began when scientists figured
out that the Christmas system is
programmable you can just give it a copy
of DNA you want to modify and put the
system into a living cell if the old
techniques of genetic manipulation were
like a map crisper is like a GPS system
assault from being precise cheap and
easy Chris park offers the ability to
edit life cells to switch genes on and
off and target and study particular DNA
sequences it also works for every type
of cell microorganisms plants
animals or humans but despite the
revolution crisper is for science
it’s still just a first generation tool
more precise tools are already being
created and used as we speak in 2015
scientists use crisper to cut the HIV
virus out of living cells from patients
in the lab proving that it was possible
only about a year later they carried out
a larger scale project with rats that
had the HIV virus and basically all of
their body cells by simply injecting
crisper into the rats tails they were
able to remove more than fifty percent
of the virus from cells all over the
body in a few decades a crystal therapy
might cure HIV and other retroviruses
viruses that hide inside human DNA like
herpes could be eradicated this way
crisper could also defeat one of our
worst enemies cancer cancer occurs when
cells refused to die and keep
multiplying while concealing themselves
from the immune system crisper gives us
the means to edit your immune cells and
make them better cancer hunters getting
rid of cancer might eventually mean
getting just a couple of injections of a
few thousand of your own cells that have
been engineered in the lab to heal you
for good

the first clinical trial for a crisper
cancer treatment on human patients was
approved in early $MONTH 2016 in the
u.s. not even a month later Chinese
scientists announced that they would
treat lung cancer patients with immune
cells modified crisper in August 2016
things are picking up pace quickly and
then there are genetic diseases there
are thousands of them and they range
from Marley annoying to deadly or intel
decades of suffering with a powerful
tool like crisper we may be able to end
this over 3,000 genetic diseases are
caused by a single incorrect letter in
your DNA

we are already building a modified
version of caste nine that is made to
change just a single letter fixing the
disease in the cell in a decade or two
we could possibly cure thousands of
diseases forever but all of these
medical applications have one thing in
common they are limited to the
individual and die with them except if
you use them on reproductive cells or
very early embryos but crisper can and
probably will be used for much more
the creation of modified humans designer
babies and will mean gradual but
irreversible changes to the human gene
pool the means to edit the genome of a
human embryo already exists though the
technology is still in its early stages
but it has already been attempted twice
and 2015 2016 Chinese scientists
experimented with human embryos and were
partially successful on their second
attempt they showed the enormous
challenges we still face in gene editing
embryos but also that scientists are
working on solving them
this is like the computer in the
seventies there will be better computers
regardless of your personal take on
genetic engineering it will affect you
modified humans could alter the genome
of our entire species because they’re
engineered traits will be passed on to
that children and could spread over
generations slowly modifying the whole
gene pool of humanity it will start
slowly the first designer babies will
not be overly designed its most likely
that they will be created to eliminate
deadly genetic disease running a family
as the technology progresses and gets
more find more and more people may argue
that not using genetic modification is
unethical because it condemns children
to preventable suffering and death and
denies them to cure but as soon as the
first engineered kid is born a door is
opened that can’t be closed anymore
early on vanity traits will mostly be
left alone but as genetic modification
becomes more accepted and our knowledge
of our genetic code enhances the

in will grow if you make your offspring
immune to outside murmur why not also
give them and enhance metabolism
why not throw in perfect eyesight how
about height or muscular structure full
hair about giving your child the gift of
extraordinary intelligence huge changes
are made as a result of the personal
decisions of millions of individuals
that accumulate this is a slippery slope
modified humans could become the new
standard but as engineering becomes more
normal and our knowledge improves we
could solve the single biggest mortality
risk factor aging two-thirds of the
150,000 people who died today will die
of age-related causes currently we think
aging is caused by the accumulation of
damage to ourselves like DNA breaks and
the system’s responsible for fixing
those wearing off over time but there
are also genes that directly affect
aging a combination of genetic
engineering and other therapy could stop
or slow down aging maybe even reverse it
we know from nature that there are
animals immune to aging maybe we could
even borrow a few genes for ourselves
some scientists even think biological
aging could be something that eventually
just stops being a thing we would still
die at some point but instead of doing
so in hospitals at age 90
we might be able to spend a few thousand
years without enough ones research into
this is in its infancy and many
scientists are rightly skeptical about
the end of aging the challenges are
enormous and maybe it is unachievable
but it is conceivable the people alive
today might be the first to profit from
effective anti aging therapy all we
might need is for someone to convince a
smart billionaire to make it their next
problem to solve on a bigger scale we
certainly could solve many problems by
having a modified population engineered
humans might be better equipped to cope
with high-energy food eliminating many
diseases of civilization like obesity
in possession of a modified immune
system with a library of potential
threat we might become immune to most
diseases that haunt us today even
further into the future we could
engineer humans to be equipped for
extended space travel and to cope with
different conditions on another planet
which would be extremely helpful in
keeping us alive in our hostile universe
still a few major challenges waiters
some technological some ethical many of
you watching will feel uncomfortable and
fear that we will create a world in
which we will reject non-perfect humans
and click select features and quality is
based on our idea of what’s healthy
the thing is we are already living in
this world tests for dozens of genetic
diseases or complications have become
standard for pregnant women in much of
the world
often the mere suspicion of a genetic
defect can lead to the end of pregnancy
take down syndrome for example one of
the most common genetic defects in
Europe about ninety percent of all
pregnancies where it’s detected are
terminated the decision to terminate
pregnancy is incredibly personal but
it’s important to acknowledge the
reality that we are pre-selected humans
based on medical conditions there is
also no use in pretending this will
change so we have to act carefully and
respectfully as we advance the
technology and can make more and more
selections but none of this will happen
soon as powerful as Chris Perez and it
is it’s not infallible yet wrong edit
still happen as well as unknown errors
that can occur anywhere in the DNA and
might go unnoticed the gene edit might
achieve the desired result
disabling a disease but also might
accidentally trigger unwanted changes we
just don’t know enough yet about the
complex interplay of our genes to avoid
unpredictable consequences working on
accuracy and monitoring methods is a
major concern as the first human trials
begin and since we’ve discussed a
possible positive future there are dark
visions too
imagine what a state like North Korea
could do if they embraced genetic
engineering could a state cement its
rule forever by forcing gene editing on
their subjects what would stop a
totalitarian regime from engineering an
army of modified super soldiers it is
doable in theory scenarios like this one
are far far off into the future if they
ever become possible at all but the
basic proof of concept for genetic
engineering like this already exists
today the technology really is that
powerful one of this might be a tempting
reason to ban genetic editing and
related research that would certainly be
a mistake
banning human genetic engineering would
only lead to the science wandering off
to a place with jurisdiction and rules
that we are uncomfortable with only by
participating can we make sure that
further research is guided by caution
reason oversight and transparency do you
feel uncomfortable now most of us have
something wrong with them in the future
that lies ahead of us would we have been
allowed to exist
the technology is certainly a bit scary
but we have a lot to gain and genetic
engineering might just be a step in the
natural evolution of intelligence
species in the universe we might end
disease we could extend our life
expectancy by centuries and travel to
the Stars there’s no need to think small
when it comes to this topic
whatever your opinion on genetic
engineering the future is approaching no
matter what what has been insane science
fiction is about to become our new
reality a reality full of opportunities
and challenges
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