Many years before, no one can dare to think a DNA modification in humans can be real; it was all a rumor. I still remember when I was studying at O level; our teacher asked a mysterious quiz about science that can we modify the Human genetic system? And we all were shocked at that time, thought how it could happen? But guess, it no more a rumor, it is actually happening!!
What is Human genetic modification?
Human genetic modification or DNA modification is a manipulation of a genome using advanced molecular engineering methods. A technique that applies to the change in the human genetic system is called gene editing; it could be done in 2 different ways, a germline genetic modification and somatic genetic modification.
A few months back, Chinese scientific research shocked millions of people to announcing of making the world’s first-ever genetically transformed human embryo.
They further reported that for the first time in the world, they took a “human tripo-nuclear embryos” and changed DNA, which causes a human disease β-thalassemia; the β-thalassemia is a life-threatening and severe disease that affects millions of people around the world.
It may be a severe warning for many, but the same time can be a delight to another.
DNA modification like this can encourage many others to develop a technology that can cure cystic fibrosis or can remove the BRCA mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer.
You might be wonder what exactly the Chinese researchers did? And why it shocked the world?
They first experimented on Human embryos; then, they collected the nonviable embryos from the IVF clinics.
Then they applied these nonviality arguments as an ethical justification for completing the work.
Scientists knew that these embryos weren’t competent in creating a human life because embryos were tripronuclear, which means one egg fertilized by two sperms, and in these biological circumstances, we can’t result in a living baby.
The scientists injected molecular scissors in these embryos, which known as CRISPR/CAS9 system and it can target a particular segment of DNA.
In the modification of DNA, scientists targeted the HBB gene that causes a β-thalassemia. Then they cut out this disease as simple we do a cut-paste in a word document.
But the whole the result first wasn’t quite right, they reported mosaicism and off target effects, which means something wrong happened in changing DNA. Also, they had other mistakes as well, which they didn’t predict.
It raises two issues; the first one is an ethical issue concerning the uses of human embryos for research and concerns about creating DNA modified babies. The second one was the fact that DNA modification went wrong in embryos.
Without proper control of DNA modification, the result for a creating baby is entirely unknown.
This uncertainty and unpredictability mean the hope of terminating specific diseases by DNA modification of embryos is likely still far away. Also, there is an issue of testing, whether this technology is safe or not.
The scientist is their way to achieve this mysterious success of DNA modifications very soon to use it for the betterment of humanity.