Light Shines on Gene Editing in New CRISPR Documentary ‘Human Nature’

Updated March 19, 2019

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what Crispr is, how it came to be and how it can work for and against humanity, you won’t want to miss ‘Human Nature.’ This documentary was produced by Dan Rather and gives an in-depth look at the gene editing tool and all it encompasses.

The Tool

For those who don’t know what Crispr is, it’s a genetic editing tool that operates much like your standard word processor. Scientists can use it to go in and edit or snip out sections of DNA that cause medical complications such as diseases or debilitating conditions. Patients would receive Crispr associated proteins, known as Cas, as treatment. The enzymes target specific portions of a person’s DNA, remove it and replace it with different genetic coding.

The Good

The documentary highlights some of the good aspects that Crispr could bring to the medical world: the ability to remove negative parts of a person’s DNA for starters. This could mean a longer lifespan for people with sickle cell disease, for example. Typically, those with the disease don’t live past their 40s, even with the modernized treatments that help. There may be a change in this in the near future, though, as the FDA is working on the approval of CTX001. Per an article featured on engadget, CTX001 is an experimental therapy which could benefit the nearly 100,000 people in the United States who have sickle cell.

The Bad

As with all new treatments and solutions, there’s always a bad side, too. With Crispr, some have sparked a debate saying that the tool could be used for bad intentions, such as in the case where a Chinese doctor claimed to use Crispr to design the genes of twin babies to make them HIV resistant. Others fear that the tool will be used to create designer babies. There’s also the concern of morality: is it ethical to go in and alter a person’s DNA?

The documentary focuses on all angles of the potential that Crispr offers including the good and the bad. While the technology is a long way from being mainstream, there’s no discounting the fact that it has amazing potential to offer treatments for diseases that prove to be degenerative and even fatal. With the FDA currently working on fast-tracking CTX001, if that trial proves to be successful, there’s no telling how widely available the technology could become.

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