Gene-editing tool: Scary?

CRISPR gene-editing tool has scientists thrilled — but nervous

Scientists gather in unprecedented summit to debate DNA editing implications

By Kelly Crowe, CBC News Posted: Nov 30, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 30, 2015 5:13 AM ET

CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, right, and her lab manager, Kai Hong, work in her laboratory with the new research tool.

CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, right, and her lab manager, Kai Hong, work in her laboratory with the new research tool. (Cailey Cotner/UC Berkeley/Associated Press)

When the scientists are worried, the rest of us should pay attention. And at this moment, they are worried.

That’s because researchers all over the world have started experimenting with a powerful new tool that can alter the DNA of every organism on the planet, including humans, with unprecedented ease and precision.

With astonishing speed, scientists are turning yesterday’s theoretical concepts into reality.

Build a malaria-resistant mosquito? Check. That work was published last Monday. Design a mechanism to drive that gene change quickly through the entire species? Check. It was reported in a fruit fly study last spring.

Compile a list of the essential genes that drive human cancer? Check. That was released last Wednesday.

Revive ancient woolly mammoth genes using the DNA of modern elephants? Check. That happened in March.

Attempt to eradicate a deadly human gene mutation from all future generations? Check. Chinese researchers published that experiment in April.

(…)

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