Genetically Modified Humans Are Only Two Years Away

The CRISPR enzyme (green and red) binds to a stretch of double-stranded DNA (purple and red), preparing to snip out the faulty part. llustration courtesy of Jennifer Doudna/UC Berkeley
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TN Note: The new gene-editing technology called CRISPER (Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeat) is still rudimentary, but it can be compared to a typewriter-like editing tool for writers. It is sophisticated enough that geneticists are willing to use it to modify the human genome. The danger in such usage is that human DNA is far more complex than anyone understands, and “edits” in one area could cause a raft of unintended consequences elsewhere that could take years to manifest. Crispr research is a boon to Transhuman fantasies of modifying aging sequences to achieve immortality. Current baby steps will lead to more aggressive experiments in the near future.

Biotech company Editas Medicine is planning to start human trials to genetically edit genes and reverse blindness.

Humans who have had their DNA genetically modified could exist within two years after a private biotech company announced plans to start the first trials into a ground-breaking new technique.

Editas Medicine, which is based in the US, said it plans to become the first lab in the world to ‘genetically edit’ the DNA of patients suffering from a genetic condition – in this case the blinding disorder ‘leber congenital amaurosis’.

The disorder prevents normal function of the retina; the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye. It appears at birth or in the first months of life and eventually sufferers can go completely blind.

The rare inherited disease is caused by defects in a gene which instructs the creation of a protein that is essential to vision.

But scientists at Editas Medicine in the US believe they can fix the mutated DNA using the ground-breaking gene-editing technology Crispr.

Katrine Bosley, the chief executive of Editas Medicine, told a conference in the US that the company hopes to start trialling the technology on blind patients in 2017.

It would be the first time the technology has been used on humans. Gene editing is currently banned in the US, so the company would need special permission from health regulators.

“It feels fast, but we are going at the pace science allows,” Bosley told the EmTech conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Crispr, which stands for Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeat, is a naturally-occurring defence mechanism used by bacteria.

Bacteria carry in their DNA strands of genetic code belonging to viruses so that they can recognise them when they come near. When they spot a virus they release an enzyme which attacks, snipping away this area of code.

Scientists have harnessed this mechanism to use as a kind of ‘molecular scissors’ which removes mutated areas of DNA.

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Robert Olin
Robert Olin

If I were blind I would jump at the chance to see regardless of possible consequences, which may or may not manifest. At any rate, I would leave it up to the individual to decide.

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson

The key thing about any modifications is that we as humans have modified our genetic makeup for many thousands of years, it was commonly done by not allowing certain people to breed, or killing the children that exhibit certain traits such as autism and other things that we find acceptable today in modern society. Also just because someone is different does not make them wrong, when something or someone is different it makes it or them better than others at some things. However there are somethings such as susceptibility to illnesses that would for many of us be a good… Read more »