Since the invention of the ability to alter genomes, people have been looking to find as many applications for it as possible. The process of altering genomes has become common practice in some instances, offering new and improved treatments for those suffering from life-threatening illnesses. But can cancer patients have their genomes changed safely?
What does altering genomes mean?
First, what does genome altering even mean? The simplest explanation is that being able to edit someone’s genomes means their DNA can be changed. Parts of the DNA are removed, new elements can be added, and it can completely change a person’s genetic structure. One of the most famous and most advanced forms of genome altering is called CRISPR. This process will likely lead to considerable steps in dealing with genetic abnormalities in fetuses; this could be used to ensure they are born healthy and free from deformities. Some DNA offers no benefit at all; they just carry unwanted genetic mutations. CRISPR will make it possible to destroy that DNA. This could save countless lives.
Are there any drawbacks from genome altering?
While genome altering aims to remove defective DNA, it can, unfortunately, do the opposite. One of the long term side effects is triggering genetic disorders in people such as cystic fibrosis. While genome altering has come such a long way in such a short time, there are still complications that must be considered. By removing certain parts of people’s DNA, this can sadly encourage the mutation of those genes, which could make things worse than they already were.
There are problems with people using genome altering immorally. While genome altering could be done on the embryo to remove genetic abnormalities and save lives, it could also be used for “selective breeding.” Choosing what traits people should be born with can be seen by some people as “playing God” and should be avoided. One could argue that preventing a child from being born with a genetic disorder is a good thing, but what about if their DNA was edited so the child would become very tall, or very smart? This is a real concern for many people. The possibility of trying to develop a more advanced set of humans could lead to severe complications for everyone else. This may sound very science fiction, but it is a big topic of discussion in the scientific community.
You can read more about that here: CRISPR superhuman.