Technical Words

thinking in 2016 – second decade in the twenty first century CE (the first century of the 3rd millennium)

CRISPR is a genetic editing tool. The name stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. The CRISPR interference technique has enormous potential application, including altering the germline of humans, animals and other organisms, and modifying the genes of food crops.

(germline in organisms refer to those cells that may pass on their genetic material to the progeny. For example, gametes such as the sperm or the egg are part of the germline.)

In the current thinking, many people feel that using CRISPR to modify germline cells in humans would be wrong. The fear is that we would be stepping into the world of “designer babies”, especially where the rich “one percent” would be able to create a master race, similar to Hitler’s breeding program.

The alternate view is that we could use CRISPR to eliminate genetic diseases, removing BRAC1/2 cancer causing genes for example, from a family line. We could potentially stamp out many of our most formidable illnesses.

Using CRISPR to modify food crops is much less controversial. We could, for example, eliminate the spoiling/browning of apples, bananas and mushrooms. Or we could create drought tolerant plants, useful in the global warming scenarios.

My view? Go for it! Eliminate diseases and the need for deodorant, stamp out mosquitoes, and let me be healthier longer.


“The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism.” – Sir William Osler


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