CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat) has the potential to end life-threatening diseases like cystic fibrosis, breast and ovarian cancer and inherited Alzheimer’s Disease. But there’s a catch: This same technology could be used to create "designer babies," which is why gene editing is the subject of ethical conversations as well as scientific ones.
In a paper published in the journal, NATURE, in early August, a team at Oregon Health and Science University corrected a genetic mutation linked to a deadly heart disorder. The researchers were able to show that CRISPR/Cas9 eliminated the disease-causing mutation from a majority of the test embryos (which were never implanted and were not allowed to divide past 8 cells.)
There are significant risks and questions yet to be answered. Serious testing began in earnest in 2012, and the technology has advanced rapidly in the last five years. It will be many more before the ethical questions surrounding gene editing are answered in the United States.
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