What You Need To Know About CRISPR

from TED

Should we bring back the wooly mammoth? Or edit a human embryo? Or wipe out an entire species that we consider harmful? The genome-editing technology CRISPR has made extraordinary questions like these legitimate — but how does it work? Scientist and community lab advocate Ellen Jorgensen is on a mission to explain the myths and realities of CRISPR, hype-free, to the non-scientists among us.

More here.

, , ,

8 Responses to What You Need To Know About CRISPR

  1. Michelle Pyatnychuk January 26, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

    Prior to watching the TED talk, I had no idea what Crispr was and how it was a monumental step forward in the science of genetics. When the speaker, Ellen Jorgensen first began her talk I instantly thought of an article I had read a few hours ago that explained how scientists were able to develop a part human and part pig embryo with the ultimate goal of creating a species with organs that can be transplanted into humans. Although Crispr and this human/pig embryo are not similar processes, they both share the common objective to advance the medical community and save countless lives. For anyone that has lost a loved one from a disease with no cure and who has been fighting ever since for a remedy that will prevent future generations from dealing with such pain, the even slight inclination that there soon could be a cure, should be enough for anyone to restore their faith in the medical community and continue to support them and their efforts.

    The Crispr process, as explained by the speaker in its simplest terms, is a long way from actually curing rare diseases and disorders but I feel as though just the mere discovery of this process is a huge step forward. It is by innovating the sciences and way we look at cells and embryos in our bodies that we can learn more about the things that our bodies do and why they do it. The advancements of science in any shape or form are crucial in the changing scope of the world where we now have the largest population of people since the beginning of time and have more ways than ever to transmit diseases or viruses because of our constant contact with other nations through trade, politics and more. The sciences that are in our world right now play a vital part in treating the vast world that we live in but it is through complete faith in these studies that experiments and discoveries such as these can continue.

    As said in the TED talk, one of the problems that scientists face are the myths that uneducated people make about their advances in their fields all because they truly to not understand the gravity of what these scientists are doing. From Jorgensen’s own experience of being bombarded with emails from people who think that she would let them alter their genotypes is evidence enough that people do not understand how long of a process discoveries such as these really are. People assume that science is logical and methodical and so, can be achieved at least within a year by experts when really, as Jorgensen points out, we do not really know enough about the human body to promote treatments and methods such as these. As a scientist herself who has spent years and years developing a way to alter a cell’s DNA, Jorgensen has every right to reject those who make her work seem so simple.

    Solving medical problems that people all around the world face every day is not something that can be fixed within a year and it is our responsibilities as citizens to give scientists the time to make sure their methods work and support the very medical communities that make findings such as these possible.

    Kaplan, Sarah. “Scientists Create a Part-human, Part-pig Embryo — Raising the Possibility of Interspecies Organ Transplants.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 26 Jan. 2017. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

  2. Benjamin Jaros January 26, 2017 at 9:07 pm #

    I had never heard of CRISPR until this talk, which reveals my ignorance about biomedical engineering. However, the principles behind CRISPR are not new to me. The ideas that they are talking about I know have always been present in sports theories under the title of “gene-doping.” The idea would involve genetically engineering the next wave of athletes so that biologically they would be bigger, faster, and stronger.
    CRISPR as a technology could create a very “slippery-slope.” I understand that a slippery slope is a fallacy, but hear out my argument. The genetic mutation allowed through the technology of CRISPR can be broken down into two categories: mutation for therapeutic reasons and mutation for the “enhancement” of the individual.
    The distinction between what constitutes therapy and what constitutes “enhancement” is significant and will play an extremely important role in the future of this technology and our society as a whole.
    For starters, I believe that genetic mutation that constitutes therapy is any genetic mutation that seeks to promote the dignity and condition of the person with the genetic “deficiency,” while simultaneously respecting the integrity of the individual. This type of genetic mutation is both in practice and in theory probably accepted by most people. This is because it has the interest of allowing someone to participate in what we consider a “normal” life.
    This is separate from the genetic mutations that seek manipulative “enhancement” of genes that are considered “inferior.” These “inferiorities” if eliminated create a kind of “super-human” that biology could not create if left on its own without interference. This type of genetic mutation, people are generally against it both in practice and in theory.
    However, the danger comes from the fact that both ideologies possess a certain arrogance in determining what is and is not “normal.” The first seeks to determine what is normal in what we, the “normal” ones, consider to be in the best interest of the “abnormal” one. The second determines that “normal” is inferior. It then seeks to destroy this inferiority through genetic mutation.
    The problem with all of this is that what constitutes normal for me, could simultaneously be abnormal for another. This opens up a whole plethora of philosophical dilemmas. What constitutes inferior? What constitutes normal? What protects the integrity of the individual? However, one thing is clear from my perspective: anything that actively seeks to change the natural state of things through genetic mutation has altered the necessary and pre-existing conditions of our existence that have remained constant throughout our known and even our unknown history.
    Throughout that history, we have had very few societies so well off that they could allow people to spend their lives in research. Therefore, we have reached a critical moment in our history when this research could be directed at defending the natural laws that exist within our genetic code, not tampering with them.
    To close, therapy is always “enhancement” of life in some way. It is “fixing” something that we as a society have determined to be a detriment. Therefore, we have become the “judgers” of what does and does not constitute “normal” quality life. Though this ideology may be necessary in the treatment of diseases and other illnesses, there is a fine line between treatment that helps an individual and treatment that we think helps an individual. We should withdraw all of our energy from this research because if we use any of it, it may overthrow the natural order that has governed our existence for as long as we have existed.

  3. Jevon Mitchell February 3, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

    To begin, I thoroughly enjoyed this TED talk. Like others, I had never heard of Crispr before and it amazes me how far we have come in the science of genetics, yet how much further we still have until practices like this are perfected. Sad to say that we do not know everything and it will take years of research and practice to fully have control of such a procedure.
    The topic of genetic engineering has always been a topic that interests me because of its complexity and how ground breaking it would be if this was figured out. For years we have played with the idea of artificial selection and genetic engineering in ways such as animal breeding for favorable traits or even shoving genes in things and hoping for good results. If we could decipher the code to successfully add specific genes or traits to DNA and manipulate it to go exactly where we want it then science technology will be changed forever. We would be able to literally wipe out an entire species that we deemed was harmful to us. This type of power has brought up controversy all over, both of ethicality and safeness.
    The first problem with genetic engineering is the question do we have the right to play God. Some people argue that we should not mess with this type of science because we will only mess up how God intended it to be. If we were supposed to be able to do such a thing, then we would have been given that privilege long ago rather than having to test on lab animals. Wiping out a whole species in itself does not sound like a good idea. So the question arises: will we abuse this power?
    Another problem is the questioning of the safeness of this testing. Playing around with procedures that we don’t know much about could mean harm to the test subjects or even the human race in the long run. Forcing mutations onto animals that are used in tests could prove harmful to the test subjects. Take dog breeding for example, specific breeds of dogs are internally bred within the breed to produce and enhance favorable characteristics on future generations. The Bulldog is a great example. It has been bred to have a cute flat face and be small and fat. In hindsight we see the health problems that come hand in hand with those traits such as breathing problems with the flat face that we bred them to have.
    To finish off, I think it’s safe to say that we do not yet know enough about this science to make any of those questions a reality at this moment but with further research we will be able to test such procedures. Though it is extremely controversial I believe that it arouses the curiosity of most. Just to think that we may soon have the power to manipulate genes to do exactly what we want. We could create a super-human, get rid of disease, the possibilities are endless.

    • Olivia Tarnawska February 7, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      Reading Jevon’s comment, I agree with his ideas in many ways. Like Jevon, I was very unware of Crispr and scientists’ ability to genetically engineer and genetically mutate to the extent that this article talks about. The TED talk focuses on how Crispr can ultimately make better models of diseases in animals or take chemicals and put them into fermentation baths. The idea of Crispr potentially being able to cure diseases is phenomenal, due to the numerous amount of diseases the world has and countless amount of deaths families experience. However, like Jovan states, Crispr does question the right to play with God. I believe that God has never intended society to play with the world that he created. Using innocent animals and genetically modifying species is a topic that is very controversial. I find this not only abnormal, but also a disappointment. If Crispr were to only be used to fund cures for diseases, it would be a great step towards curing people. On the other hand, using Crispr to create different species presents a different outlook on the innovation. Jorgensen talks about how the human body is so intricate that she, as well as other scientists, are unware how the body will respond to such treatment. This is true; and as Jevon stated “playing around with procedures that we don’t know much about could mean harm to the test subjects or even the human race in the long run.” Who really knows what is to come in the long run after scientists have crossed the limit of genetically engineering species and cells. There are risks that come with Crispr, and will not be present until years to come. I believe that scientists should be restricted in how much they genetically engineer, because the results can be detrimental where they also can not be reverted.

  4. Ryan Carne February 3, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

    Crispr was said to be a very well known system in this TED Talk but i have never heard of it and I am on social media, the internet and watch the news fairly frequently. This is interesting to me because it would appear that it is only a well known system to those people that are in the field. It also may be getting hidden because it is no where near perfected and they do not want a public panic about scientists being able to completely alter a life form and they want to buy themselves enough time to further their research and progress in the field before anyone attempts to put an end to their research. I personally believe that this whole process should have many more lights shown on it until there are more experts in the field being able to voice their opinions on possible outcomes of genetically modifying embryos or bringing back species of animals that were extinct.
    This TED Talk scares me a little bit due to the fact that scientists are figuring out ways to completely alter the genetic make-up of an organism. The balance of nature is not something that should be messed with, animals have evolved and will continue to evolve to become the best versions of themselves in their current surroundings; speeding up this process could be potentially dangerous for many other species that were not yet altered. Having the power to recreate an extinct species is incredibly dangerous for everyone, they do not have any natural predators anymore and they are being introduced to a world that they have never experienced and could do a lot of damage to the stable eco-systems that already exist in their former regions and habitats. This is not a good idea to help in the protection of the environment and safety of Earth’s species like so many activists fight for.
    Editing embryos of newly created human life will also just create massive controversy and end up costing millions of dollars for more research and possibly even lawsuits. Although may be beneficial in extreme cases of children born with severe abnormalities that would prevent them from having a good quality of life, this may get abused and have people attempt to create the “perfect child” and be editing their DNA for their own personal gain. Designer babies have been a very controversial topic in recent years and this new development in genetic engineering will only heat up the conversations because it goes from just being a hypothetical to a very possible reality. This new technology should continue to be researched and developed but legislature must be put in place to regulate its uses, there are too many negative outcomes that could come from this to not have this new industry become heavily regulated. If this stays in the medical community for serious repairs and cures then it is an incredible development and deserves as much publicity and notoriety imaginable but only if it stays in the medical community and not in the hands of greedy rich people looking to gain personal wealth or fame from genetically engineering new or old species.

  5. William Stuck February 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    CRISPR is a new method of editing any DNA sequence by confusing the cells natural repair mechanisms. Telling them to make the changes that we want rather than the actual repairs. Now we are able to edit any genome with much more precision than ever before. Scientist Ellen Jorgensen explains the science behind CRISPR and whether or not it is as cheap and easy as some people claim. She explains that there are a lot of unknown factors, such as why certain methods work better than others and why certain cells do things in different ways. She also says that the CRISPR process is somewhat misunderstood. It is more so used to better observe and understand things, rather than for something crazy like to give a pig wings (one of her examples). But as our understanding of this process increases, than one day we may be able to make such radical changes. The ability to do this raises a number of questions. Is it ok to edit the human genome? What justification do we have to wipe a species off the face of the earth, or to revive a species that has already gone extinct? I think that this will eventually create a number of problems and dilemmas in our society. If we allow scientists to edit human DNA, then to what extent can they do that? There would have to be some kind of line that cannot be crossed in terms of changing our DNA. And regardless of any kind of laws, there would still be people who would do strange and inhumane things in the name of science. And many would argue that we don’t have the right to play god and drive an entire species into extinction or to revive one. Even though we’ve had no problems forcing organisms into extinction before this. I think it would be cool to see things that lived millions of years ago. But any such things would have to be kept in the confines of some kind of living museum, one can only imagine the damage that some kind of prehistoric organism cold do to the fragile global ecosystem. Another thing that Jorgensen briefly touches on is the legal battle over who owns this technology. Hopefully one day we don’t run into the same problem that is currently plaguing the pharmaceutical industry, where the prices of life saving treatments are hiked up to ridiculous levels because the people using them have no other option but to die. However, despite all of this I believe that we will be able to use this technology for the betterment of humanity, and the entire world. Hopefully we will use this technology in an ethical way that benefits all. And I also hope that the litigation will be created to foster such an environment where everyone can gain.

  6. Abhimanyu Sood November 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

    CRISPR (or CRISPR-Cas9, if you want the full name), is a big improvement in how we genetically modify organisms. All organisms, from single-cell bacteria, to plants, to animals, to humans, have long molecules inside of them, called DNA. The pattern of different molecules in this chain of DNA, called the genetic code, provides instructions for building those bacteria/plants/animals. Tiny little machines inside those cells read the genetic code and use those instructions to make every part of the organism, so that it can grow and reproduce. DNA is the “blueprint” for making an organism, it can make changes to the DNA and see the results in the resulting organisms. For example, if you insert the instructions for producing a green fluorescent protein in a bacteria’s DNA, that bacteria will make the protein, and will glow green under fluorescent light. But inserting a new chunk of instructions into DNA isn’t as easy as making a change to a set of blueprints. It can manipulate DNA when it’s isolated from an animal, on its own, but there’s no way to build a new organism around that naked DNA. If you want to change an organism, then you would need to get at the DNA inside the cells, without killing them. As great as this technology is, there are some major ethical concerns that are arises when it comes to this. What is stopping people form genetically modifying organisms in their favor. Should one program be given all this power?

  7. Cassandra Sibilski November 30, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

    Watching this TED talk about CRISPR was very interesting and very on point for me as we were just talking about this in my biology class yesterday. CRISPR is basically a genome editing process that has the potential to do some crazy things, like bringing back animals that have long been extinct. (that’s a stretch, but ultimately that’s possible) Ultimately the process is where humans purposely “damage” DNA and then get the DNA to fix it by doing an edit that we want in the genome, rather than a natural edit. There is a protein called Cas-9 involved as well as guide RNA, that are the center of the process. While anything that is gene editing and has to do with ultimately altering what would be naturally occuring, I think a lot of potential issues could arise. A lot of people have ethical concerns over this as well, as to whether or not this should be done to humans. Being able to edit the genome is very interesting, and when you look at how important and detailed a strand of DNA is, the thought of changing small parts of it, seems very risky and that something could ultimately go badly wrong. I think this is especially true since humans would be engineering in some thing that wasn’t occurring naturally on its own. YOu never know the complications that could arise out of doing something like this, and I think scientists definitely need to be aware over how they use this new technological process.

Leave a Reply