• Question: What would we be able to achieve with gene editing

    Asked by HughGRection to Zoya, Tom, Stacey, Laura, James, Connor on 12 Mar 2020.
    • Photo: Connor Prior

      Connor Prior answered on 12 Mar 2020:


      This is a very hot topic in biology at the moment. Theoretically we could take the embryo of a pregnant woman and “edit” out the undesirable genes (e.g. Blue eyes, removing of specific genetic disorders like Cystic Fibrosis and Huntingtons, etc.) This is called “designer babies” but it is very hotly debated about whether or not it is ethical.

      Alternatively, we used to get insulin (treats diabetes) from pigs. But this was difficult for us to do and it came from an animal so our bodies could reject the insulin. We now have genetically modified E.Coli with the human genes to produce insulin by the Kilo now! This is much easier and more ethical!

    • Photo: James Lees

      James Lees answered on 12 Mar 2020:


      The bigger questions we should maybe ask is what ‘can’t’ we achieve with it or even bigger what shouldn’t we.

    • Photo: Zoya

      Zoya answered on 12 Mar 2020:


      Theoretically a lot is possible. But most traits like connor said eye colour is a multigenic trait meaning it is controlled by many genes and would mean you having to change multiple genes to control that character and would be a total waste of energy and time.
      There are also traits called single gene disorders like downs syndrome caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, if you could delete the extra chromosome from an embryo then maybe you could cure down’s.
      Gene editing is higly debated in humans, currently all research on human embryos is restircted to 14 days after which experiments can’t be performed and there are strict guidelines and ethical approval you need before doing such experiments.
      Media potrayal of gene-editing is also slightly exaggerated which creates panic and hysteria, recently there was a huge issue with a scientist who had edited a gene called CCR5 in 2 embryos and 2 little girls were born as a result. The CCR5 gene protein is used by the HIV virus to enter and infect healthy cells, so the scientist thought that by removing the gene he would make the babies HIV immune, however, we still dont know if CCR5 has any other functions and this really created a whole stir in the industry causing charting of newer stricter guidelines.

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