South Africans are focusing on learning during the lockdown, with some perhaps considering impromptu careers in craft brewing and homemade alcohol. As lockdown enters…
“Human beings are fairly close to being perfect,” correct? After all, there’s plenty to lay claim to that.
We’ve developed flight without biological wings, ways to travel faster than the speed of sound, and even methods of cloning our genes. That may be so, but in each endeavour, we’ve had many failures before we’ve seen a success. And even then, our scientific creations and alterations are still not perfect. But what if they could be?
CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat is a new way for scientists to extract selected sections of a living organism’s DNA and replace it with entirely new DNA. It might sound like a simple process, but it’s far from it.
Human DNA is a complex string of code and just one slight alteration could cause major changes; mutations that could alter our appearance and bodily functions. Yet genetic mutations and alterations have been happening to all living organisms for millions of years.
CRISPR has the potential for rewriting genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. Currently, it’s used to create malaria resistant mosquitoes as well as help treat HIV and blindness.
“The net outcome of the reading of a gene is that a protein is made that generally has one of two basic functions, depending on the gene. First, the protein may be a structural protein, contributing to the physical properties of cells or organisms,” the National Council of Biotechnology Information explains.
“The protein may be an enzyme that catalyses one of the chemical reactions of the cell. Therefore, by coding for proteins, genes determine two important facets of biological structure and function.”
The possibilities are endless, but for now, CRISPR’s technology is far from commercially ready. Makes one think, doesn’t it? The potential to be “the perfect being” is only a few years away. Even so, is it ethical to tamper with creation — even if it could mean saving a person’s life?
It’s up to you to decide.