Topic: Genetic Engineering
Conduct a research investigation, identifying appropriate resources for researching the issue, develop a question related to the issue, and apply principles of natural science to your issue and question.
Specifically, the following critical elements must be addressed:
I. Introduction: In this section, you will discuss your natural science issue and select resources that you can use to research the issue. This will lead you to the development of a research question related to your issue. Specifically, you should:
a. Describe the issue in the natural sciences that you have selected to investigate. Why is this issue significant?
b. Describe at least three science resources that you could use to investigate the issue you selected. Your sources must be relevant to your issue and must be of an academic nature appropriate for the issue. In your description, consider questions such as: What are the similarities and differences in the content of your sources? What makes them appropriate and relevant for investigating your issue? What was your thought process when you were searching for sources? How did you make choices?
c. Based on your review of science resources, develop a specific question related to the issue you selected. In other words, what would you like to know more about?
Note: Include this as one of the resources:
II. Body: In this section, you will use the natural science resources that you selected to investigate your question, focusing on an appropriate audience and the scientific principles related to the issue. Make sure to cite your sources. Based on your research:
a. Identify an audience that would be interested in your issue and the question you developed. For example, who would benefit most from hearing your message, or who could best help in addressing the issue?
b. Describe how and why you can tailor your message to your audience, providing specific examples. For example, will your audience understand scientific terminology and principles, or will you need to explain them? How will you communicate effectively with your audience?
c. Identify the natural science principle(s) that apply to your question and issue. For example, if your issue is global climate change, the principle you might identify is that the sun is the primary source of energy for Earth’s climate system.
d. Explain how the principle(s) you identified apply to your issue and question. In other words, how are the natural science principle(s) you identified relevant to your question and issue?
III. Conclusion: In this section, you will conclude your research investigation by discussing future directions for the debate on your issue. Specifically, you should:
a. Formulate a hypothesis that addresses the question you developed. Make sure your hypothesis is based on your investigation of your question.
b. Explain how a natural scientist would go about collecting evidence to support or refute the hypothesis you formulated. In other words, what would the next steps be if a natural scientist were to continue researching your hypothesis? Make sure to support your response with the natural science resources that you selected.
IV. Provide a reference list: It most include all of the science resources you used to investigate your issue and question. Ensure that your list is formatted according to current APA guidelines.
Last year, a Chinese Scientist, He Jiankui, made global headlines when the announced to the world that he had managed to create the first set of genetically edited babies. The scientist had performed edits on fertilized human embryos by making them resistant to the HIV infection. The embryos were then transferred back to the mother that provided them leading to the birth of twin girls. In some quarters, the experiment appeared as a victory for the sciences but in most spaces it there was widespread condemnation and outrage. Before, the experiment, it was already clear that it was possible to conduct genetic editing on the embryos. However, many scientists chose to hold on before proceeding to analyze the ramifications of such experiments. The break through is science and technology had opened up new possibilities of research. However, quagmire on genetic mutation experiments is how far is too far?
The move by the scientist prompted global debates by scientists about the implications of the work on the twins and the world in general (Harper & Schatten, 2019). An application of the CRISPR technology to sperms, human eggs or embryos, gene altercation occurs and the modification can pass on to the next generation. Therefore, there is a possibility that the experiments can modify the gene pool for the entire human species. Some of the scientific experts think that a moratorium on genetic editing is the best way forward. Eighteen scientist from different countries have called the moratorium for all genetic editing practices. Among the proposals is a halt on all genetic mutation experiments. Additionally, the scientists are calling upon respective governments to set up laws to prevent or regulate such study until the development of an appropriate global framework.
In 2015, scientists organized a moratorium and it offered a description of the CRISPR. The form of technology works on the bacterial immune systems. The system enables scientists to make single target molecules that are complimentary to genes of interest and the protein Cas9 (Harper & Schatten, 2019). The modifications make it possible to cut the genome precisely. To that extent, the CRISPR technology make makes it possible for scientists to identify and remove dangerous genetic sequences. The replacement for the genetic components is either beneficial or neutral genetic material. In that regard, CISPR enables a cost effective means of treating genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. Additionally, CRISPR can create gene drives with the ability to suppress or spread certain genes that reduce the chain of disease transmission. The technology also guides innovation the development of disease resistant, high yield crops.
In the United States, there is no direct restriction on the editing of human embryos. However, the regulatory framework is difficult to navigate. Additionally, the lack of research support from the federal governments impedes significant progress by the researchers (Chandrasegaran, Bullen & Carroll, 2017). Though there are calls for the ban of genetic editing experiments and the use of CISPR, there are still concerns on whether it is right to stop the development of science. A huge of majority of genetic scientists believes that it is too early to incorporate the use of CISPR in genetic mutation.
According to the experts, the safety of the form of technology is not yet fully established. The scientists admit that the technology has advanced natural sciences in significant ways (Harper & Schatten, 2019). For instance, it is now possible for scientists to define a precise molecular scissor for snipping the human DNA at the precise point where the disease-causing gene resides. Additionally, it is possible to replace harmful genome with healthy elements of DNA. However, the effects of manipulating the genome and the replacement of fragments of DNA are yet to manifest. Therefore, the scientists urge cautious use for the form of technology.
To date, researchers are still struggling to draw the line on genetic editing. Modifications to the somatic cells only affect one individual. However, genetic engineering ensures that the changes pass on from one generation to the next. Although there are some arguments that somatic genome engineering can advance human health, the ethics around the experiments is still controversial. Germline genome editing has to deal with the stigma around ethical implications and concerns on the possibility of destruction of human embryos for the purposes of experimentation. Additionally, there is also concern about the unintended consequences of the experiments. In the last decade, the advancement in laboratory techniques and methods has increased the conceptualization of the human genome and attracted more attention towards the potential of CRISPR.
Proponents of genetic editing perceive it as the cure to serious human conditions such as HCM (Regalado, 2015). According to scientists, the disease is difficult to deal with and it affects a large section of the population (Harper & Schatten, 2019). For instance, in India, a tenth of the population carries HCM. Gene mutation is the most common source of HCM. Through genetic editing, it is possible to take an embryo of human with such a mutation meaning that the human genome is missing the four base pairs and correct it. In theory, if such an embryo were to grow it would develop to a human being without HCM.
Most of the research on the happenings at the embryonic stage on human development has to be done on the embryo cells. The cells are exposed to the adult stem cells and some special chemicals (Hershlag & Bristow, 2018). Even though the embryo cells are from research, they cannot replace the embryonic cells perfectly. Certain elements such as DNA repair systems can differ more in the embryos than the embryo-like cells. To that extent, DNA repair is critical in the genetic editing experiments. CRISPR is the most precise gene editing method available today. However, it does not edit the genes in real sense. The form of technology only targets and snips. The next involves depending in the cells own repair mechanisms that finds the cuts and fixes it.
In most body cells, there are two repair mechanisms. The preferred system by the body needs less effort but it does not do a perfect job on most occasions (Harper & Schatten, 2019). For instance, by inserting a new DNA letter can result in the deleting of a letter that should be there. The other form of repair requires more effort by the cells or the body but the outcome is better. Nevertheless, some research efforts have indicated that human cells use the second method to repair. The second repair method is imperative for CRISPR to have the preferred outcome.
The CRISPR technique is very complex. To an extent, there is no guarantee, for instance, it is not evident whether measure to fix the HCM mutation would achieve similar levels of success in other forms of mutation (Zeng et al., 2018). On the other hand, proponents of genetic editing still insist that in the eventuality of perfection, the technique can have a significant impact on the health of human beings. The complication of the technique is also an advantage because it is a safeguard abuse. If the technique was easy, individuals can take advantage to create babies with greater strength or higher intelligence. The number of genes used in the creation of certain traits is not yet clear. Additionally, the skill required to make the desired level of edits on the human genome is also not evident. To that extent, proponents of CRISPR lay away the worries of the emergence of designer babies.
The most significant threat in the use of CRISPR is the unregulated use of the form of technology. With the rise of genetic engineering tools, there is a risk of the methods falling in the hands of individuals with inadequate understanding of the risks involved with the use of CRISPR. Uninformed use of the technology can lead to challenges such as off target effects and mosaicism of children. The risk of things turning out awry is high in an unregulated environment with blanket restrictions. Proponents of genetic editing argue that a regulated environment for clinical applications is safer than a ban on the trials. In the United States, the kind of research allowed on human embryos is only pre-clinical trials. In other countries such as South Korea, it is strictly forbidden. The United Kingdom was the first country to allow creation of three parent babies on the condition that the applying parties made a compelling application. Governments and other medical regulatory bodies need to weigh the risks involved and the potential for abuse Vis a Vis the benefits of genetic engineering.
Chandrasegaran, S., Bullen, C. K., & Carroll, D. (2017). Genome editing of human embryos: to edit or not to edit, that is the question. The Journal of clinical investigation, 127(10), 3588-3590.
Harper, J. C., & Schatten, G. (2019). Are we ready for genome editing in human embryos for clinical purposes?. European journal of medical genetics, 103682.
Hershlag, A., & Bristow, S. L. (2018). Editing the human genome: where ART and science intersect. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics, 35(8), 1367-1370.
Regalado, A. (2015). Engineering the Perfect Baby. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535661/engineering-the-perfect-baby/.
Zeng, Y., Li, J., Li, G., Huang, S., Yu, W., Zhang, Y., … & Huang, X. (2018). Correction of the Marfan syndrome pathogenic FBN1 mutation by base editing in human cells and heterozygous embryos. Molecular therapy, 26(11), 2631-2637.