Life on earth goes back to 4 billion years ago. What if we had the capability of editing the source of life? We started our journey 4 million years ago. The technology which has the ability to change the source of life came into existence just 8 years ago. Source of human life is DNA ( Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid). Every strand of DNA in our body has information like eye color, height, skin color etc. Genome editing is not as simple as it sounds and designer DNA is very hard to achieve. A human genome is his genetic blue print. To understand how we can Re Design DNA, Lets understand what is CRISPR.
CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats . They are found in bacteria and they record the segments of any foreign body. When that foreign body attacks bacteria they cut the same segments with enzymes and act has an immune system. This mechanism by bacteria gave us the idea to edit the DNA and create Designer DNA as per our needs. In 2014 Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the break through prize for gene editing technology.
Neville Sanjana says ‘Sequencing a human genome is as big as constructing a pyramid’. DNA has two kinds of information one is simple and the other is complex. Simple includes skin color,eye color etc. Complex traits include intelligence, height etc. We have to draw a line between nature and nurture. We might be able to edit something which comes under nature but how do we change something that is nurtured.
There are two kinds of gene editing.
- Somatic Gene Editing.
- Germ line Gene Editing.
Somatic gene editing is concerned with the same person and ends with the same person. Germ line gene editing is passed on to next generation. Germ line editing does raise a few ethical questions. There is always a difference between therapy and enhancement. Therapy is the treatment of a disease while enhancement is giving extra edge to a healthy body. Darwin talked a lot about diversity and if germ line editing becomes common, people are afraid that it will dilute the diversity on the planet.
Social scientists believe that its more a question of perception as well. There are people who consider deafness and dwarfism as a shortcoming and would want to change it while others would consider it as diversity. We leave it to the readers to draw a line between enhancement and therapy.