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CRISPR - Gene Editing Technology - Why Hue & Cry for it now a days

Hi readers. Have you heard about Chinese Doctor's claim about Genetically Modified Baby. Yes this is same as shows in HULK movie, however at a very small level. Let's see what it is and why there is a wave of protest against it.

What is CRISPR

Well, if you know about it, you can skip this part. But if you don't, do read it. 

“CRISPR” (pronounced “crisper”) stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which are the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology. 

Don't panic over technical terms. There is a DNA in our cells which is like a very long code that determines courses / actions / attributes / deseases / organ development / personalities etc of a person just like a Software. It is made of many nucleotides and a set of nucleotides responsible for a specific function is called as a Gene

And the CRISPR (more pricesly CRISPR-Cas9) is like a very small biological robot that can be inserted in your cell --> nucleus --> DNA and there it can simply cut / copy / paste a portion of you DNA or replace a portion of your DNA or delete a portion of your DNA and can be replace it with other organism's (be it of any person's, animal's or even man made artificially created) DNA. 

So what?

Are bhai It has already been told that a gene in DNA is responsible for some specific task. Say I have a Gene named as Maths1 and the doctor replaced this Maths1 gene of mine with my friend's Biology1 Gene --> what is going to happen, yes you are thinking it right, then I will be a doctor instead of an Engineer simple.

With these CRISPR systems that can be programmed to target specific stretches of genetic code and to edit DNA at precise locations, as well as for other purposes, such as for new diagnostic tools. With these systems, researchers can permanently modify genes in living cells and organisms and, in the future, may make it possible to correct mutations at precise locations in the human genome in order to treat genetic causes of disease.

Brief History

CRISPRs were first discovered in archaea (and later in bacteria) by Francisco Mojica, a scientist at the University of Alicante in Spain. In January 2013, the Zhang lab published the first method to engineer CRISPR to edit the genome in mouse and human cells.

So What Happened in China

The researcher, He Jiankui, astonished the world by claiming that he had altered a gene in the embryos, before having them implanted in the mother’s womb, with the goal of making the babies resistant to infection with H.I.V. He has not published the research in any journal and did not share any evidence or data that definitively proved he had done it. But it is quite possible with the existing technologies and only question is left of ethics. While many of world's scientists and ethical people are showing fear, the Chinese scientist is saying that he's proud on that. 

So is there an issue to worry?

Well that's a tricky question. While CRISPR technology is existing for past 4-5 years, its only the first open claim that has made by any scientist and it's quite possible that secretively many Researchers/ Research Institutes / Countries are already doing it.
The CRISPR technology is a real and powerful technology. Now you can have your own baby with the desired qualities. Now You can say "मेरा लड़का फुटबॉलर बनेगा" by Editing his DNA that suits a Footballers' DNA. With this technique, Many hereditary diseases such as Hemophilia etc can be deleted from the humanity. Moreover, you can ensure that your new born Child is going to be Smart, Intelligent and can be made capable to clear any exam even IAS exam. Forget it, the Scientists can now create a brand new Species which will be super powerful, super intelligent and super beautiful. 

But it opens up a world full of possibilities:

1. The technique will be confined to the Influential people of the Society, so it will deprive all the chances of lower people to come into mainstream. The rich and influential people will be able to breed Genetically Advanced babies which will supersede the traditional human beings. resulting unemployement, poverty, slavery and a large population left to face the risk of diseases.

2. The evolution is a very very long term phenomenon. The nature has carefully selected, modified and crafted the Genes over the span of billions of years and who call it Human Being now, is the product of that process. There are trillions of Genes in human Genome responsible for trillions of functionalities out of which some are dominant and some are dormant. May be the changes made in the Genome by CRISPR would activate the bad dormant Genes who will inturn open up the pandora box and instead of doing goods, the total outcome will be disasterous. For example you wanted your child to be like Sachin Tendulkar, edited / inserted Genes in that manner and ended up in getting a child that has the qualities of Sachin but is having no resistance to Cold and would eventually dies of that having Cold. Its like fixing a computer and ending up damaging its Operating System completely. 

3. Trillions of Genes makes up Trillions of possibilities. There are as many as 90% Dark Genes in the human gene code purpose of which is entirely unknown till date. How can you play with a machine without knowing most of its part and functionality. "Little Knowledge is a dangerous thing".

4. Many influential countries can 'design' its population for serving its own purposes. So possibly the entire nation can be created with warriors or enslaved people.

Ok that's enough. You can also shed light over this technology's pros and cons in the comment box.

Original Article by Nilesh Mishra

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