Cambridge, causeof ALS proves that it is

Cambridge, 1963: Mister Hawking, you su er from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I’m afraidthe average life expectancy is two years.” It may sound rough, but, at age 21, one of the mostbrilliant minds of our time, Stephen Hawking, was given this diagnosis. The only known causeof ALS proves that it is inherited and about half of these genetic cases are due to various mu-tations 22.But what if we could modify certain genes? Well, CRISPR technology, a recent scienti cbreakthrough in biotechnology, makes genome editing possible for all living organisms, eitherhumans, animals or plants. As it enters the gene to be edited, commits a change, an erasure or,in some cases, an addition, the CRISPR method can be comparable to the nd and replace”computer function, but used for the genome.The technique is orrowed” from bacteria. The bacterial DNA stores sequences of viruses intothe so-called clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. When a bacterium isinfected with a virus already stocked in these CRISPR sequences, the virus recently integratedinto the DNA is removed. More exactly, when the bacterium detects the presence of virus DNA,it produces two types of RNA. One of them, called gRNA (guide RNA), contains a sequence,which corresponds with that of the invading virus. The two RNAs form a complex with the Cas9protein, an enzyme capable of degrading DNA or RNA molecules by breaking the bonds thatconnect the adjacent nucleotides 23. When the suitable sequence from the gRNA associateswithin the viral genome, the Cas9 nuclease reaks” the unwanted DNA, thus eliminating thevirus. Therefore, the CRISPR/Cas system represents the adaptive immune system of bacteria24. After many years of research, the CRISPR method can be used to detect andremove from a genome any unwanted DNA sequence, at a well-speci ed place, bychanging the RNA sequence so that it matches the viral DNA.There are many opportunities and they remind us the fact that the future of medicine shalldepend more and more on genome editing. For instance, genetically engineered cultivationscould even reach maturity faster and be conserved longer. The CRISPR technology can, aboveall, reduce genetic diseases, from Sickle-cell disease, Thalassemia, Huntington’s disease or lungcancer to hereditary blindness 25.However, we consider that it is our responsibility to set ethical limits on this subject. The pos-sible use of the CRISPR method exclusively for the aesthetic sense represents one of the usesthat, in our opinion, should not be allowed. It may seem convenient to change the color of ourchildren’s eyes or other features, but this would merely represent abusing of the technique. It isour belief that any change in human embryos associated with aesthetics doesn’t correspond tomoral principles and represents, in fact, an abuse of power. Imagine a world where, as a resultof changing the IQ, all people would be geniuses. It would be a limitless world, an environmentthat would make it impossible to di erentiate people, which would be opposed to the idea of”Everyone is unique”.That is why we think the CRISPR technology should be used for necessities, not for desires. Asone of the co-founders, Jennifer Doudna, said, “we must consider carefully both the unintendedconsequences, as well as the intended impacts of a scienti c breakthrough” 26.


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