Your Disease Cure May be Right In Your Genes
It’s only been seven years since scientists first learned how to precisely and reliably splice the human genome using a tool called CRISPR, making it possible to think about snipping out disease-causing mutations and actually cure, once and for all, genetic diseases ranging from sickle cell anemia to certain types of cancer and even blindness.
Doctors are plunging ahead in search of ways to use relatively new technology to start treating patients. In China last November, scientist Jiankui He stunned—and dismayed—the genetic community when he announced he had already used CRISPR, which many believe still hasn’t been proven either safe or effective in human patients, to permanently alter the genomes of twin girls to be immune to HIV infection. He’s experiment was criticized because he edited the twins’ cells when they were embryos, therefore ensuring that every one of their cells is now changed, including their reproductive ones, which means their edited genomes can be passed on to their children, despite the fact that experts can’t be sure what the long term effects of such lasting modifications might be.