Should we edit our DNA? An imagined future of gene editing

Should we edit our DNA? An imagined future of gene editing


My publicist is excited that you’re doing this. She was raving about your Rihanna biopic. I won’t be nearly as exciting. Are you kidding me?
You’re almost as famous as Einstein. I’m Kate Randall, I’m a geneticist. I hold professorships at various universities and I’m the winner of the 2025 Nobel
Prize for Physiology and medicine. And your company is? Well, there’s … it’ll take a while to say
them all … There’s about ten now. I’ll just say something generic. I’m the co-founder of a number of companies
developing CRISPR technology in numerous fields, from health to agriculture to fertility. So, now can you read the opening
paragraph from your new book? ‘For four billion years, nothing fundamental
changed in the basic rules of the game of life.’ ‘Whether you were Tyrannosaurus
Rex, tomato or a Texan, you were subject to the laws of natural selection.’ ‘But about 15 years ago all that changed.’ ‘And now we’re replacing evolution by natural
selection with evolution by design.’ ‘Today we can literally rewrite
the book of life.’ That’s great! Now can you give us a CRISPR 101? Really? I mean, kids are
learning this in elementary school. CRISPR is like a chemical cut and paste tool. It enables us to snip out a certain piece of
DNA and remove it or replace it. It works in a few ways. You can use CRISPR to snip out the part of DNA
that’s coded for say muscular dystrophy or Alzheimer’s thus eliminating that
disease from your future child. But CRISPR is not only a pair of
scissors, it also allows us to insert the DNA so you can insert say the genes for
green eyes or height or for strength and if that wasn’t revolutionary enough,
CRISPR also enables us to make these genetic changes heritable. CRISPR can override natural selection. Most forms of cancer are now treatable. Drought-resistant rice now ensures food
security for millions of the poorest. Gene drives have been used to wipe out
malaria by sterilising female mosquitoes. Now, using pigs we’ve modified
for human organ harvesting. There is no transplant waitlist in
countries like the USA or the UK. That’s just a fraction of the numerous benefits
we’re experiencing conclusive. Are you still using Cassandra? I’m so, so sorry,
I was sure I turned my phone off. So, I wanted to ask you about regrets. What about the
way it’s exacerbating inequality? The recode babies which only the rich can
afford, the fact that we’re engineering a new human race for the wealthy. You can’t blame that on us, on scientists. That’s capitalism not CRISPR. We did everything
we could to mitigate the risks. In 2019, we called for a global moratorium
but we were ignored. I sat on global ethics committees, I wrote three books to inform the public, I did everything I could. A diary that is? Not quite. Morning pages. It’s free writing, helped me writing that first book. And all those nightmares back in 2019. This was mum’s. I’ve forgotten about that. She was a scientist too, right? Yeah, biology teacher. This was her place. It was badly damaged in that tornado in 21,
I had it rebuilt. What are those? Drawings of the organisms whose genomes had been edited using CRISPR year by year. It’s a bit of a project. It all happened so fast.
– Too fast? Yeah. You could say that. Once we’ve mastered the ability to recode human life, everybody wanted in. Science progressed at an insane speed. The race to play God. Russia, China, the US … nobody
wanted to be left behind. Remember they became obsessional? Abusing CRISPR that was the height of
human arrogance over the rest of the web of life. More and more whenever she looked at me
she had this mix of pride and disappointment. I couldn’t bear it,
I stopped visiting. Put the bloody camera down, have a drink.
– I’m good thanks. I’d like to ask you about CRISPR and … Oh, just have a sundowner. – I’m not drinking. When’s your harvesting date? – I’m sorry? Oh well, that was your hormone measurements, on your phone, right? IVF. Actually this isn’t about me. Well, that’s not fair. You get to pick me apart
but I don’t get to find out anything about you? Well, at least tell me what you’re recoding? I’m doing this because
I’m having a a child alone not because I’m recoding anything. I want my child to be born in natural. Don’t tell me you’re a luddite. Anyway, I could never afford it.
It’s four times my income. The prices will come down.
They always do. Well, pharmaceutical companies have
been shafting us with patents for ages so forgive me if I don’t share your conviction that eventually everyone will be able to
afford recoding. Stop with the pro natural blah blah. They’re deluded.
Pandora’s Box is well and truly open. At least get the climate recode, then your
child can live at higher temperatures. I’ll sort it out at my clinic. A gift.
I just need some DNA. I just wanted to help. If temperatures soar by recoding you’re
ensured of the future of your child. When I was little I used to spend hours
prodding the sea anemones. I love to watch them contract. Let me touch it. No. Don’t. Leave them. Let them be. If you want to film
where really all began, it’s probably here. It was the first time that
we came down here. My mum had just got the place. Well, it was in a state. But there was no running water. We had to wash our plates in the sea
that first night. I wanted to impress her with star jumps on the rocks. I wanted to keep her happy so I kept
doing bigger and bigger jumps and then of course I fell, badly, broke my leg.
I was horizontal for two weeks. She tried to entertain me by teaching me a jazzed
up version of her syllabus from Darwin to DNA. That’s what led to me diving into genetics. Toward the end of her life, she told me
how she sometimes wished that that period had never happened. You should accept my recode offer. What choice have you got?

About the Author: Michael Flood

39 Comments

  1. If it's a personal choice and only the person who's been edited bears consequences, why not ?

    The children however 😁

  2. I do not, in any way disown the beneficial uses of CRISPR; however, the early accessibility of such a technology will sharpen the "difference" between Upper Classes and the "others".
    There is no healthy way to establish the use of CRISPR, until it can be a Commodity. There is nothing stopping the wealthy from even doing something as malicious and mundane as a incorporate a marker gene [which does nothing functionally] to write in our very code "ARISTOCRAT".
    I don't think anything short of martyrdom is "EVERYTHING I COULD DO" moreso, you did "everything capitalism would allow me to do".

  3. Given a government employee got made to resign this week in part for raising this topic, maybe even the discussion isn't allowed?

  4. The video omits basic science about CRISPR and other gene editing tools and why they shouldn't be used. The main ignored scientific fact that should transcend all ethical, moral and political considerations is this: “… genes don’t work in isolation. They influence each other in large networks, so that 'if a variant changes any one gene, it could change an entire gene network,' says Boyle. He believes that these networks are so thoroughly interconnected that every gene is just a few degrees of separation away from every other. Which means that changes in basically any gene will ripple inwards to affect the core genes for a particular trait …. 'Historically, even understanding the role of one gene in one disease has been considered a major success. Now we have to somehow understand how combinations of seemingly hundreds or thousands of genes work together in very complicated ways. It’s beyond our current ability.” ("What If (Almost) Every Gene Affects (Almost) Everything?" by Ed Yong, The Atlantic (June 16, 2017)). Also see: “An Expanded View of Complex Traits: From Polygenic to Omnigenic,” by Evan A. Boyle, Yang I. Li & Jonathan K. Pritchard, Cell, Vol. 169, No. 7 (June 15, 2017) Even CRISPR causes unintended mutations because genes don't exist in isolation; they are part of an inter-connected, dynamic network. They are not Lego blocks – you can't simply remove or edit a gene without impacting the entire network in unknown ways – the impact from these alterations may not even manifest until years later – in some cases, possibly leading to cancer. See: "A Crispr conundrum: How cells fend off gene editing," by Carl Zimmer, New York Times (June 14, 2018); “A Serious New Hurdle for CRISPR: Edited Cells Might Cause Cancer, Find Two Studies,” by Sustainable Pulse (June 11, 2018); “Repair of double-strand breaks induced by CRISPR–Cas9 leads to large deletions and complex rearrangements,” by Michael Kosicki et al, Nature Biotechnology (published online July 16, 2018) doi:10.1038/nbt.4192; “CRISPR gene editing produces unwanted DNA deletions,” by Heidi Ledford, Nature (July 16, 2018)

  5. Did you have the script checked at all by anyone who knew anything about the topic at hand? It's pretty obvious that the author has no idea what they're talking about.

  6. 🤔 Should we do brain surgery on ourselves as Dr Caroline Leaf, Joe Dispenza and Bruce Lipton suggest? This is also a work of fiction? I’ll wait. 😏

  7. "if man knows something exists he reaches for it like it's damn near instinctive"

    That and

    "I think we're overlooking something fundamental we don't understand"

  8. And then you pretend we need genetic adjustments for global warming. Humans have lived everywhere between -20 and +40°C. This is so bad. How can you commission someone so obviously scientifically illiterate write science fiction?

  9. The arrogance of the scientific community is astonishing. We're still evolving and who knows the potential we have and these quacks think they can do a better job. Disgusting.

  10. What means NATURAL? The most natural thing for human beings is to develop technology and change the world around, isn't it?

  11. l'infinito ha l'energia che e' una perfezione perfetta
    l'universo ha gli atomi che e' una imperfezione cosi' imperfetta che nessuno la eguaglia
    l'assoluto e' un solo punto infinitamente piccolo di fusione tra l'energia e gli atomi
    il cosmo e' la creatura dell'infinito e dell'universo con prevalenza degli atomi che lo compongono quindi con una percentuale superiore al 90 % dell'imperfezione imperfetta……………26.02.2020
    QUANDO MAI SE MAI E POI MAI LA PERCENTUALE SARA AL 50 % PERFEZIONE PERFETTA 50 % IMPERFEZIONE IMPERFETTA………FORSE NON ESISTERA' PIU' LA NASCITA E LA MORTE MA…….SOLO LA VITA………..! 26.02.2020

  12. Gentile Signore Roger Penrose per conoscenza alla Gentile Signora Fabiola Gianotti e per conoscenza Signore Carlo Rubbia,
    per affrontare uno studio approsimativo ma quasi attendibile del COSMO e dell' UNIVERSO…………..
    DOVRESTE DISPORRE DI LAVAGNE SCOLASTICHE TRIDIMENSIONALI
    credetemi che senza l'uttilizzo di lavagne scolastiche tridimensinali avete una realta' del COSMO e dell' UNIVERSO molto "contorta" ed errata……………SALUTI 26.02.2020

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