The future of genetic engineering is closer than you think.

In November last year, there was news thatthat the Chinese scientist secretly changed the genes of embryos of a pair of Chinese twins, and shook the whole world. However, although the use of advanced technologies to change the human gene pool was premature, it became a precursor of how genetics will change our health care, attitude towards children and, ultimately, our attitude towards ourselves and towards our species. The genetic revolution has already begun, but we are not ready to take these promethean technologies responsibly.

Having determined the structure of DNA in the 1950s, Watson,Crick, Wilkins and Franklin showed that the book of life is written in the DNA double helix. When the human genome project was completed in 2003, we saw how to rewrite this book about human life. Painstaking research in combination with advanced computational algorithms began to discover more and more what genes are doing and how to read the genetic book of life.

Now, thanks to the emergence of precise toolsgene editing - like CRISPR (read what it is) - we understood that the book of life, and even the whole biology can be rewritten. Biology has become another form of information technology that is read, writeable and cracked, which we humans encode.

The impact of this transformation is primarilyfelt in the health field. Gene therapy, which includes extracting, modifying, and re-introducing one's own human cells, improved to fight cancer, for example, already works wonders in clinical trials. Thousands of applications have already been filed with regulators around the world for testing using gene therapy to treat many other diseases.

Not so long ago, the first editing was started.cell genes inside the human body for the treatment of relatively simple in terms of the genetics of metabolic disorder - Hunter syndrome. Other applications will follow soon. These examples are literally the very first steps in our transition from the existing system of generalized medicine, based on the average population figures, to exact medicine, based on the individual biology of each patient, and prognostic medicine, based on artificial intelligence generated estimates of the future human health.

This shift in our healthcare ensuresthat millions and then billions of people will sequence their genomes, thus laying the foundation for their treatment. Big data analytics will help scale up human genotypes (what genes say) with phenotypes (how genes are expressed throughout life).

Massive sets of genetic and medicalinformation will go beyond simple modern genetic analysis and understand much more complex human diseases and traits that are affected by hundreds or thousands of genes. Our understanding of this complex genetic system in the vast ecosystem of our body and our environment will transform health care for the better and help us to cure the terrible diseases that have tormented our ancestors for thousands of years.

But however revolutionary this task is formedicine, the consequences of the genetic revolution in health care are only transshipment stations on the way to their final destination: a deep and fundamental transformation of our species.

Change in human species

The first glimpses of the future into which we move,can be seen in the consumer-oriented genetic testing industry. Many people around the world sent their swabs from the inside of their cheeks to companies - like 23andMe - for analysis. The information that will be provided to them will tell about relatively simple genetic features: the status of diseases associated with a single gene mutation, eye color, whether cilantro taste is like, but will keep silent about complex features: sports predisposition, intelligence, personality.

It will not always be so. As the pools of genetic and health data increase, an analysis of a large number of sequenced genomes will make it possible to predict very complex genetic risks of diseases and genetic features such as height, IQ, temperament, and personality style. This process, called “polygenic counting,” has already been carried out by several companies, and in the future will become a more important part of our life.

The most interesting consequence of all this will manifestin our birth of children. Before deciding which of the fertilized eggs to implant, women in the IVF process today can choose from a small number of cells that were extracted from previously implanted embryos and sequence the genome. Modern technologies allow you to see the mutations of individual genes and relatively simple disorders. Polygenic counting will soon allow you to see embryos in the early stages of development and assess the risk of developing complex genetic diseases or even the possibility of inheriting complex human traits. The most intimate elements of human existence will soon be subject to strict selection by parents.

Adult stem cell technology,are likely to produce hundreds or thousands of a woman’s own eggs from her blood sample or skin graft. This will open the door to reproductive opportunities and allow parents to choose embryos with exceptional potential from a much wider range of options.

The complexity of human biology imposessome restrictions on the extent of gene editing possible, but all biology, including our own, is extremely flexible. How else did all this biodiversity come from a single cell four billion years ago? The limitations of our imagination will be the biggest obstacles to our biology.

But as long as we humans strive for the power of the gods, we are not at all ready to use it.

Games with own biology

The same tools that will help us.overcome our worst addictions, save our children, help us live a longer and healthy life, they also open the door and abuse. Prudent, well-intentioned parents or states with weak regulatory structures or aggressive ideas who wish to increase the competitiveness of a nation can plunge us into a genetic race that will undermine our significant diversity, dangerously divide society, lead to dangerous, destabilizing and even fatal conflicts between us. put at risk all of humanity.

But if the development of genetic technologyinevitably, the way all this unfolds can and must be controlled. If we don’t want the genetic revolution to destroy our species or lead to fatal conflicts between having the right genes and the poor, or between socially adapted and socially unadapted, right now we need to make smart decisions, starting from our best individual and collective values. Although the technologies that promote the genetic revolution are new, the value system that we will need to optimize the benefits and minimize the damage in this process of mass transformation has been developed for thousands of years.

And although some clever and well-intentioned scientiststhey were already going to discuss what would happen next; even the wisest prophets are not enough to make decisions about the future of our species. It will be necessary to lead the process of its formation at the national and even international level.

Each country will have to develop its ownregulatory guidelines for human genetic engineering based on both international best practices and unique traditions and values ​​of the country. However, since we are all one species, in the end we will have to develop guidelines that apply to all of us.

The intersection of genomics and artificial intelligencemay seem like science fiction, but it's closer than you think. Much earlier than most people recognize, the benefits that new technologies offer, and the competition between us, will trigger a quick response. Before this spark lights up, we have quite a bit of time to come together as a species, to formulate and translate into reality the future that we will see together.

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