CRISPR

Zhiyi Lin, Staff Writer

CRISPR, a revolutionary gene editing tool first discovered by Francis Mojica in 1992, recently took the world by storm with its possible abilities to cure debilitating human diseases and brought to question the morality of gene editing. 

Short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, CRISPR is a gene editing tool that originally derived from bacteria’s natural defense system against harmful viruses. CRISPR cuts out portions of DNA using the protein Cas9 which allows researchers to add or delete pieces of genetic code through the cell’s natural repair process. 

CRISPR is not the first gene editing tool, however, scientists are excited over its speed and efficiency, unlike its predecessors. Its capabilities also carry impressive results, with the possibility to cure sickle cell anemia, or even eliminate entire populations of mosquitoes that carry the deadly disease malaria. 

However CRISPR was, and still is, not exempt from critiques. The Lulu and Nana controversy, which occurred in October of 2018, put CRISPR into the spotlight as scientists debated the morality of changing the genetic makeup of humans. He Jiankui, a professor for the Southern University of Science and Technology, used the CRISPR gene to develop HIV resistance in a pair of twins named Lulu and Nana. It was widely  criticized for the ethical and moral ramifications of the study, as well as the possible harm done to the twins as a result. 

Despite the possible medical advancements that CRISPR provides, many appear apprehensive to the prospect of gene editing. 

“I don’t like it, because gene editing implies that we’re not ok with certain kinds of people, I think you should just live with the cards you’re dealt” said Junior Nikolai Barry. 

Others, however, find that the prospect of gene editing an appealing idea. “All I know is that it’s a gene editing tool that could have good implications for the future, like curing genetic diseases,” said Junior Denis Lashchuk.  

CRISPR is exciting the scientific community, yet worries continue to circulate the idea of gene editing. The question remains, is it moral, is it ethical, is it safe to tamper with our genetic code?