Author Topic: New tool in the genetic engineering box  (Read 1649 times)

New tool in the genetic engineering box
« on: January 07, 2016, 12:19:54 PM »
I posted a link to CRISPR-Cas9 in Stromboli's Enhanced Human Operation thread, but thought it deserved a thread of it's own.

A new gene editing technique is being hailed as the scientific breakthrough of 2015, but it is also presenting a lot of ethical issues because its use could make the possibility of engineering Strom's super soldiers faster, cheaper and more accurate. In other words we have the technology if not the genome specific data to do that sort of thing right now.

We currently have the technology to eliminate the occurrence of some inherited disorders. For example we know what the mutations are that lead to increased chance of things like sickle cell anemia, some types of breast cancer and one particular mutation that leads to high risk of Alzheimer's. If we wanted to we could edit the DNA of eggs and sperm, implant via in vitro fertilization and eliminate or at least drastically reduce the chances of the resulting children developing these problems. The CRISPR Cas-9 technique could lower the costs of such procedures enough to make them affordable to a much larger segment of the population. The question is do we want to?
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Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2016, 12:56:52 PM »
I posted a link to CRISPR-Cas9 in Stromboli's Enhanced Human Operation thread, but thought it deserved a thread of it's own.

A new gene editing technique is being hailed as the scientific breakthrough of 2015, but it is also presenting a lot of ethical issues because its use could make the possibility of engineering Strom's super soldiers faster, cheaper and more accurate. In other words we have the technology if not the genome specific data to do that sort of thing right now.

We currently have the technology to eliminate the occurrence of some inherited disorders. For example we know what the mutations are that lead to increased chance of things like sickle cell anemia, some types of breast cancer and one particular mutation that leads to high risk of Alzheimer's. If we wanted to we could edit the DNA of eggs and sperm, implant via in vitro fertilization and eliminate or at least drastically reduce the chances of the resulting children developing these problems. The CRISPR Cas-9 technique could lower the costs of such procedures enough to make them affordable to a much larger segment of the population. The question is do we want to?

No question a boatload of ethical issues goes with this. Being able, as mentioned, to modify viable human embryos would send the religious fundies into spasmic fits. From designer children to super soldiers to real live Furries, oh my! This is not only a breakthrough of major potential it is also potentially a huge can of worms.

Offline TomFoolery

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2016, 01:05:24 PM »
I will preface this by saying CRISPR has a long way to go and a lot of bugs need to be worked out, and despite us having sequenced the whole human genome there's still a lot we don't understand about how both genes and environmental factors play into disease. Autism is a prime example, with more than 60 genes identified as being somehow involved in autism and a number of maternal risk factors that all seem to merge into the nexus that results in an autism diagnosis. Alzheimer's and most cancers present this way as well. There are currently just too many unknowns and it's likely to take decades more research before we better understand the genetics behind them.

The question is do we want to?

I don't think the question is do we want to but "how far do we go" and "for what purpose?"

You did mention sickle cell anemia and there are many others that can be boiled down to a single faulty gene such as Huntington's, Tay Sachs, and cystic fibrosis. I don't think anyone short of the disgustingly religious will say we need more babies with Tay Sachs in the world (because it's part of God's plan, of course). I think the majority will agree that if we can prevent people from developing a disease that will end their life or cause them immense suffering, we should do it.

But lines get blurry really quickly as to what constitutes "life-threatening" or "immense suffering." With pre-implantation diagnosis people have already flirted with the ethics to the point of absurdity. Many disability advocates have tried for so long to convince everyone that there's no such thing as being disabled, there's just "differently abled." There have been cases were two parents with dwarfism wanted to use PID to produce a child with short stature and two deaf parents wanted to insure they would have a deaf child. Isn't that what most parents seek? A child who is "like them?" While I don't support eugenics, it's hard for me to argue that we should deliberately create children with what society at large would consider a disability simply to soothe a parent's vanity.

It gets even crazier when you start toying with things like homosexuality, which has a strong genetic and fetal environment role. Should parents be able to select for or against homosexuality in a child? I can just imagine a bunch of gay-hating bigots in a fertility clinic wanting the "gay gene" cut out of their child.

Ultimately I think this is no different than any scientific breakthrough: with great power comes great responsibility. GMOs had the chance to shape the environment and revolutionize agriculture but they've been badly mishandled. I could see this going the same way, and it would be nice if there were laws put in place with the advice of scientists, geneticists, and physicians to say which conditions CRISPR should be used for. Absolutely use to it prevent neurofibromatosis! Don't use to it prevent a child from being able to see just because it has blind parents.

How can you be sure my refusal to agree with your claim a symptom of my ignorance and not yours?

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2016, 01:15:12 PM »
I will preface this by saying CRISPR has a long way to go and a lot of bugs need to be worked out, and despite us having sequenced the whole human genome there's still a lot we don't understand about how both genes and environmental factors play into disease. Autism is a prime example, with more than 60 genes identified as being somehow involved in autism and a number of maternal risk factors that all seem to merge into the nexus that results in an autism diagnosis. Alzheimer's and most cancers present this way as well. There are currently just too many unknowns and it's likely to take decades more research before we better understand the genetics behind them.

I don't think the question is do we want to but "how far do we go" and "for what purpose?"

You did mention sickle cell anemia and there are many others that can be boiled down to a single faulty gene such as Huntington's, Tay Sachs, and cystic fibrosis. I don't think anyone short of the disgustingly religious will say we need more babies with Tay Sachs in the world (because it's part of God's plan, of course). I think the majority will agree that if we can prevent people from developing a disease that will end their life or cause them immense suffering, we should do it.

But lines get blurry really quickly as to what constitutes "life-threatening" or "immense suffering." With pre-implantation diagnosis people have already flirted with the ethics to the point of absurdity. Many disability advocates have tried for so long to convince everyone that there's no such thing as being disabled, there's just "differently abled." There have been cases were two parents with dwarfism wanted to use PID to produce a child with short stature and two deaf parents wanted to insure they would have a deaf child. Isn't that what most parents seek? A child who is "like them?" While I don't support eugenics, it's hard for me to argue that we should deliberately create children with what society at large would consider a disability simply to soothe a parent's vanity.

It gets even crazier when you start toying with things like homosexuality, which has a strong genetic and fetal environment role. Should parents be able to select for or against homosexuality in a child? I can just imagine a bunch of gay-hating bigots in a fertility clinic wanting the "gay gene" cut out of their child.

Ultimately I think this is no different than any scientific breakthrough: with great power comes great responsibility. GMOs had the chance to shape the environment and revolutionize agriculture but they've been badly mishandled. I could see this going the same way, and it would be nice if there were laws put in place with the advice of scientists, geneticists, and physicians to say which conditions CRISPR should be used for. Absolutely use to it prevent neurofibromatosis! Don't use to it prevent a child from being able to see just because it has blind parents.



Indeed the lines get blurry very quickly. For a more totalitarian government like North Korea or even an Islamic state, the idea of breeding super soldiers or some monster yet to be conceived becomes a possibility, if not an eventual certainty. Ethically it would have to be approached, hopefully, from a standpoint of universal consensus, but if the science is there, you can almost guarantee it will be pursued. The idea of curing diseases or birth related defects, alzheimer's Scoliosis- quite a list of potential targets for research.

But like you said, the potential for mishandling a la GMOs is also very scary. And a very real possibility.

Offline Baruch

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2016, 06:32:19 PM »
In the Best Of All Possible Worlds aka Candide ... responsible people who know what they are doing, and are operating under legal and ethical constraints of a licensed profession ... can do wonders with technology.  Doctors are supposed to be that.  And if I could trust anyone, I would trust a doctor.  I would not trust an MBA educated corporate CEO, any more than I would trust a politician or Kim Jong Un.

But what people want is unlimited access free of charge, at least for themselves.  Any drug (for example) in any amount anytime and anywhere ... without the need of a physician.  If you can imagine a drug addict running a corporation or a country (and they do).  This applies to every technology that is more advanced than a shovel.  GMO in particular is motivated primarily by profit motives, not clinical motives.
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Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2016, 09:18:55 PM »
Saw the Lillian Hellman/Leonard Bernstein operetta, wasn't impressed. Got no time for Voltaire.

You trust jack all and it will bear not one whit on the decision making process of a totalitarian/dictatorship that sees advantage in the science. Likewise science is not driven by wishful thinking so much as a forseeable result in the research. In this case, the forseeable results are a potential Pandora's Box, both of potential good and conceptual evil. Choose one from column A and one from column B.


Offline aitm

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2016, 09:40:20 PM »
How about we just start small and with some common sense. Eliminate diseases and deformities. Not a bad start.
A humans desire to live is exceeded only by their willingness to die for another. Even god cannot equal this magnificent sacrifice. No god has the right to judge them.-first tenant of the Panotheust

Offline Baruch

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2016, 10:38:08 PM »
How about we just start small and with some common sense. Eliminate diseases and deformities. Not a bad start.

Alas ... they consider dog lovers like you (or insert other category) as being a deformity.  Is a big nose a deformity?  Do we all have to like like a younger Angelina Jolie?  But I agree with starting small, that is how the nuclear race started.
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Online Sal1981

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2016, 07:42:53 AM »
sorry for the necro-bump, but Kurzgesagt has a fine video on this

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Offline Baruch

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2016, 08:15:58 PM »
Human arrogance can't kill off the human race fast enough ;-(
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Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2016, 11:26:17 PM »
I posted a link to CRISPR-Cas9 in Stromboli's Enhanced Human Operation thread, but thought it deserved a thread of it's own.

A new gene editing technique is being hailed as the scientific breakthrough of 2015, but it is also presenting a lot of ethical issues because its use could make the possibility of engineering Strom's super soldiers faster, cheaper and more accurate. In other words we have the technology if not the genome specific data to do that sort of thing right now.

We currently have the technology to eliminate the occurrence of some inherited disorders. For example we know what the mutations are that lead to increased chance of things like sickle cell anemia, some types of breast cancer and one particular mutation that leads to high risk of Alzheimer's. If we wanted to we could edit the DNA of eggs and sperm, implant via in vitro fertilization and eliminate or at least drastically reduce the chances of the resulting children developing these problems. The CRISPR Cas-9 technique could lower the costs of such procedures enough to make them affordable to a much larger segment of the population. The question is do we want to?

the thing is how would be able to test this modifications if not in humans. But this is a process that occurs before the person even exists so he cannot possibly consent or be responsible of consequences positive and negative of the not tried before modifications.

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2016, 11:27:50 PM »
I guess we could try to build synthetic zombie human bodies and hatch them in the lab.

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2016, 11:32:58 PM »
the thing is how would be able to test this modifications if not in humans. But this is a process that occurs before the person even exists so he cannot possibly consent or be responsible of consequences positive and negative of the not tried before modifications.

Did you watch the video Sal posted? I don't remember the exact number, but I think it said something like 95% of human fetuses identified as down's risks in Europe are aborted. Opting for an experimental genetic cure over abortion seems like a reasonable choice for a parent to make to me.
Save a life. Adopt a Greyhound.


Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2016, 10:22:27 AM »

Eugenics in general have a bad reputation throughout history. It depends how rational the person who has access to this is. If it ends up in the hand of an irrational dictator if could be Nazi Germany all over again. The advancements in science and technology that we've made are truly astounding. The problem is 99% of the 7 billion people on earth don't know how to think rationally. I believe that all these advancements are premature, humans should have learned to think rationally before being able to handling nuclear weapons.
The fireworks in my head don't ever seem to stop

Offline Baruch

Re: New tool in the genetic engineering box
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2016, 06:38:02 PM »
the thing is how would be able to test this modifications if not in humans. But this is a process that occurs before the person even exists so he cannot possibly consent or be responsible of consequences positive and negative of the not tried before modifications.

France has research that shows that GMO is bad for you, but they are evil communists who must be crushed like bugs ... and used as people food.  The rich are always trying to get us peasants to eat bugs.
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