The speed and cost associated with editing technologies, despite the growing interest in gene editing, remain the greatest barrier to the vision and imagination of early pioneers in synthetic biology.
CRISPR came along and changed everything.
Scientists Jennifer Doudna and Emanuelle Charpentier and their team won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020. They were recognized for developing a new revolutionary gene-editing technique that allows researchers and scientists to replace and remove DNA sequences from genes with precision: CRISPR.
CRISPR is quick, inexpensive, and relatively simple to use. It also unleashed the creativity of DNA coders.
CRISPR was the first genetic engineering tool to apply techniques from digital coding to biology. The cross-fertilization led to a range of breakthroughs, from using DNA to store computer data to creating ” DNA origami” 3D structures.
CRISPR has also allowed scientists to redesign entire species, including bringing animals back from extinction.
Gene Drives use CRISPR to insert genetic code directly into the genome of an organism and ensure that certain traits are passed on to all future generations. Scientists are currently testing this technology in order to eliminate mosquitoes that carry disease.
Gene drives can alter the genetic makeup and make an entire species different.
Gene drives are not without ethical concerns despite the potential benefits. These questions are difficult to answer, even when they are applied to obvious public health threats such as mosquitoes. These questions become even more complicated when they are used for hypothetical human applications, like improving athletic performance for future generations.
Gain of Function
Advances have also improved the ability to alter individual cell behavior in gene editing. Biomanufacturing technology is based on reengineering simple organisms in order to produce useful substances, ranging from aircraft fuel to food ingredients.
Also, it’s at the heart of the controversy surrounding genetically modified viruses.
These rumors are unsubstantiated, but they have reignited the debate on the ethics of gain-of-function research. These rumors are unfounded, but they have renewed the discussion of ethics in a gain-of-function study.
The risks and benefits of altering the genetic makeup of pathogens and organisms are both present. Ars Electronica/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Gain of Function research uses DNA-editing techniques to alter the way organisms work, including increasing their ability to cause disease. Scientists use this technique to prepare for possible mutations that could increase the capacity of viruses to cause disease. Such research raises the risk that a virus with dangerously enhanced properties could be released accidentally or deliberately outside of the lab.
The increasing ability of scientists to manipulate biological source codes has also allowed them to develop the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines in a short time to combat COVID-19. Vaccines work by precisely engineering the genetic principles that tell cells to produce harmless versions of viral proteins. This allows the immune system to respond to the virus when it is encountered.
Responsible biological source code
Michael Crichton, as prescient as he was, could not have imagined how far science has advanced in the last three decades. Reviving extinct species is a research area that’s still in progress, but it remains extremely difficult. In many ways, however, our technologies have advanced significantly since “Jurassic Park” and subsequent films.
How have we performed on the front of responsibility?
The social and ethical aspects of gene editing have been taken into consideration as the science has developed. In 1975, scientists developed a set of guidelines to ensure the safety of recombinant DNA research. The Human Genome Project was designed with the social, ethical, and legal dimensions in mind. DIY bio communities have led responsible and safe gene-editing research. Competitions are based on social responsibility.