Yesterday it became known that several famouspeople in the field of gene editing want to introduce a global moratorium on editing genes in cells that transmit change to the next generation. Back in 2015, after the first International Human Gene Gene Summit, the organizers unanimously agreed that the creation of genetically modified children would be “irresponsible” if we just didn’t know for sure that it was safe.
CRISPR: prohibit cannot be allowed
Last year, Chinese scientist He Jiankuiedited embryos to create two genetically modified babies. Other groups are also actively seeking opportunities to use this technology to improve people's lives.
This prompted people with names in the areagene editing (some of which subscribed to the statement of 2015) to call for the introduction of a global moratorium on editing all human germ lines - editing sperm cells or egg cells with hereditary changes.
In an open letter published in Nature onThis week, major players in the development of CRISPR, including Emunuel Charpentier, Eric Lander and Feng Zhang, joined colleagues from seven different countries, calling for a total ban on human germline editing, until an international body agreed on how to monitor this. They offered five years to consider this issue. The US National Institute of Health also supported this call.
The signatories hope that the voluntary global moratorium will prevent the emergence of the next Jiankui with an undesirable surprise.
Scientists believe that the moratorium for a period of five yearswill give time to discuss “technical, scientific, medical, social, ethical and moral issues that need to be taken into account” before taking CRISPR into practice. Countries that decide to go further and allow germline editing should not only announce this publicly, but also participate in international consultations on the appropriateness of such a movement, as well as ensure a “broad public consensus” in the country.
Also the signatories of the letter suggest thatgermline research should be allowed if there is no intention to implant embryos and produce children. The use of CRISPR for treating diseases in unproductive somatic cells (when changes are not inherited) should also be acceptable if any participating adults provide consent. Genetic improvement should be prohibited, and there should be no clinical applications unless its “long-term biological effects are clear enough for both humans and humans.”
We still don't know what most doour genes, so the risk of unintended consequences - good or bad - is huge. For example, the loss of the CCR5 gene that Xe gave, intending to protect children from HIV, was associated with an increase in the number of complications and death of certain viral infections.
Changes in the genome can have unintended consequences in future generations. “Attempting to change the look, based on our current level of knowledge, would be a manifestation of pride,” scientists say.
The proposed moratorium is designed for good people and is unlikely to stop scammers. But a direct ban would be too “tough”. Well, let's hope that we will find a middle ground in this matter.
But what does the general public think, including us?
Literally this year, CRISPR showed three powerful advantages that the gene modification procedure has - and the study of the tool is just beginning.
First, all the same genetically modifiedthe twins from China may have inadvertently improved their intelligence. Research has shown that the same change — removing the CCR5 gene — not only makes mice smarter, but also improves the ability of the human brain to recover from a stroke, and may also be associated with higher school performance. The study was published in the journal Cell. Further research has already been initiated to investigate the relationship between CCR5 removal and stroke recovery.
Secondly, CRISPR is able to weaken the reactionthe body's immune system to stem cells, making the latter, in fact, "invisible" for defensive reactions. This prevented stem cell transplant rejection. Scientists first used CRISPR to remove two genes that are necessary for the proper functioning of a family of proteins known as major histocompatibility complex (GCGS) of class I and II.
When researchers transplanted the alteredthree-part mouse stem cells to incompatible mice with a normal immune system; they did not see any rejection. Then they transplanted similarly constructed human stem cells to so-called humanized mice - in which the immune systems are replaced by components of the human immune system - and again did not see anything.
This suggests that CRISPR can make transplantation of at least pluripotent stem cells much more convenient, reduce the percentage of rejection and facilitate the process of getting used to new tissues.
And even if we say that CRISPR can be dangerous, as it can accidentally cut non-target genes, scientists have already bothered to create a “switch” for the editing tool.
At the beginning of this month a team from CaliforniaUniversity of Berkeley reorganized CRISPR into a programmable tool ProCas9, which is quietly hidden in its cells until external factors wake it up - for example, a viral infection.
This “extra level of security” limits CRISPR editing skills to a subset of cells “for precise cutting,” says study author Dr. David Savage.
Moreover, ProCas9 can potentiallyrespond to logical inputs, such as “and” or “no,” which means that it will be activated only if you follow a specific set of instructions — for example, “this cell is cancerous” or “this cell is infected” will lead to the answer “donate a cell” , which activates CRISPR and instructs it to cut the genes necessary for survival. The study was published in the prestigious journal Cell.
Obviously, direct prohibition of editing CRISPRcan be extremely dangerous and throw science back - just imagine a direct ban on chemotherapy, vaccinations or antibiotics. The potential of CRISPR has not yet revealed even a few percent, but it is already clear how powerful this tool can be.
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