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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It’s time society discussed the ethical issues raised by the gene revolution

Linda Geddes
The Guardian
Originally posted June 11, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Since the method was first published in 2012, CRISPR has swept through the scientific community. On Wednesday, the US National Academy of Sciences published a report on the transformative potential of one such application: genetic engineering technology called gene drive. Mosquitoes are currently being engineered with “gene drives” that could render female offspring sterile and potentially wipe species of mosquitoes off the planet .

The technology could also be used to eliminate invasive species such as Japanese knotweed or to reverse herbicide resistance and make agriculture more productive. Until now, such efforts have been stymied because in changing an organism’s DNA, you are reducing its ability to survive and reproduce, meaning the changes are eventually weeded out by natural selection. Gene drives overcome this by ensuring the changes are passed to all offspring. The technology could irreversibly alter entire ecosystems. Another potential application of CRISPR is growing human organs in pigs to meet the demand from transplant recipients. Already, genetically altered pig embryos have been injected with human cells, which it is hoped will develop into pancreases that could be transplanted into humans without the risk of rejection by the immune system.

The article is here.