Scientists have made a major breakthrough in the field of gene manipulation. A technique known as C.R.I.S.P.R. (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) has shown the ability to basically rewrite genes to correct genetic defects. Research has shown that the technique does not produce mutations and malformations around the targeted gene. Additionally, the process is so detailed that it can target any individual D.N.A. sequence. The technology is heralded as a major step forward in combating diseases from cancer, to H.I.V., to genetically inherited disorders such as sickle-cell anemia.
Simply put, science now has the technology to edit the genetic code of any living organism. Not only does this pose the potential to cure diseases, it can also be used for humans to augment their existing traits. This ranges from changing your eye color to making yourself taller. This germline gene therapy allows these modified traits can be passed down to offspring. We can now, using the power of our intellect, control our own evolution.
We have entered uncharted territory where we, like Doctor Baron von Frankenstein, hold the keys to life itself. We can play God. This raises the question of whether we should. The fundamental danger is that, as humans, we generally have no idea what the consequences of our actions will be. We do not know the implications of our actions that will take generations to manifest.
In the natural order when a gene pool is more diverse the population is stronger. That is why inbreeding ultimately results in deformities and infirmities. When humans can choose their genetic makeup, the tendency will always be to select a few desirable traits. The gene pool will inevitably shrink. Taken to the logical extreme, one new disease could result in the extinction of the human race.
Furthermore, we do not really understand the function of all the D.N.A. strands. We are currently discovering that “junk” D.N.A. that previously was thought to be useless actually plays an integral part in the functioning of the rest of the sequence. Editing D.N.A. under this scenario is like a person going into a website and modifying the H.T.M.L. without knowing how it functions. Pretty soon you get an error message.
The Independent, ‘Jaw-dropping’ Breakthrough Hailed As Landmark in Fight Against Hereditary Diseases as Crispr Technique Heralds Genetic Revolution: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/exclusive-jawdropping-breakthrough-hailed-as-landmark-in-fight-against-hereditary-diseases-as-crispr-technique-heralds-genetic-revolution-8925295.html
National Institute of Health, The CRISPR System: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819186/
Science, Muplex Genome Engineering Using CRISPR/Cas Systems: https://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6121/819
The Doudna Lab, CRISPR Systems in Bacterial Immunity: http://rna.berkeley.edu/crispr.html
The Daily Cardinal, Future of Regenerative Medicine May Include CRISPR Gene Repair: http://host.madison.com/daily-cardinal/science/future-of-regenerative-medicine-may-include-crispr-gene-repair/article_1cc4d654-4687-11e3-a78f-0019bb2963f4.html
Council for Responsible Genetics, The Hazards of Human Developmental Gene Modification: http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/ViewPage.aspx?pageId=108