Should scientists toy with the secret of life?

No caption, from MedPage Today

No caption, from MedPage Today

Somewhere in the world, inevitably, a person’s cells are being ruthlessly drained of nutrients and space by hostile cancer cells. Not only cancer plagues our earth, and for as long as the human race can remember, we’ve searched for ways to fight it.

Imagine if cripping hereditary illnesses like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease could simply be removed, leaving a free and flourishing human. If you stop to look around, you’d see that this future could soon become reality, fueled by our unappeased appetite for amelioration.

While sometimes our efforts may divulge unseen desires, the resolute shadow of progress is sure to take a darker path if left constricted and unmonitored.

Genetic engineering was recognized in the 1950’s, and its purpose was to modify genes using biotechnology for the good of humankind. Genetic engineering and its manipulation of genes allowed for plants to become more beneficial and efficient for our consumption.

It was until CRISPR was discovered, thanks to sequences derived from DNA fragments of bacteriophages, a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, that the possibility of eliminating all diseases and perfecting the human genome, an organisms’ complete set of instructions, suddenly became all the more attainable.

With this great new technology comes great responsibility. Perfecting the human genome may have serious unforeseen repercussions, and our limited knowledge coupled with our excessively proud nature may come back to bite us.

It’s foolish to think that standards won’t continue to rise as humanity continues on the unattainable quest for perfection. Genetic engineering, however, isn’t just a looming threat that may be taken advantage of by human greed like all promising technologies. CRISPR and the whole realm of genetic engineering may still be in its early development stages, but it comes with much promise.

CRISPR is more precise than conventional gene therapy and therefore may have the power to treat some diseases for which gene therapy hasn’t worked well,” said Conlon, who discussed challenges to gene editing for cystic fibrosis in the June Genes & Diseases.

It is true that if left to be independent, genetic engineering will take the human race into an inescapable future. However, that’s just it. Like a powerful weapon, genetic engineering, stem cell research, CRISPR, and all of its many parts must be advanced respectfully and carefully, taking into consideration not just your future, but mankind’s.

So yes, whether we like it or not, scientists will and should toy with the secret of life. Who doesn’t want the answer to age and an infallible human race? It is simply a matter of controlling what we can, because progress will happen whether we like it or not.

If we have the power to determine the path genetic engineering will take, we should jump at the opportunity, or some else will.