Gene therapy has changed since the arrival of CRISPR (Links to an external site.), a novel and highly targeted gene editing tool that no longer requires the use of viral carriers. Combined with cloning, stem cell research and tissue engineering, the day of designer babies is not far away. In fact, it is a reality and we are having to discuss ethics in reproductive medicine anew. The technology in question are synthetic embryos (Links to an external site.) grown from stem cells entirely outside a woman’s womb, as explained by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times. John D. Aach and his colleagues explored the ethics of creating what they call “synthetic human entities with embryo-like features (Links to an external site.)” — Sheefs, for short. For now, the most advanced Sheefs are very simple assemblies of cells. Discuss how a combination of the gene editing tool CRISPR and stem cell based synthetic embryo technology will change the way we think about reproductive technologies and gene therapy.
Bio Prompt Peer Response: 100 words min 5/3/19
After reading the first article, I am mind blown. CRISPR–Cas9 is a modern tool that molecular biologists have been using to slice the genome in human cells and alter the genome however they’d like. This tool has become very popular because of its potential to treat diseases. Researchers can still working on using the tool to understand cell fate and how to possibly manipulate it. Which can lead to some amazing results such as “turning off” a gene for a specific disease. The CRISPR-Cas9 can also allow scientists to edit the genes of human embryos! Which first of all is insanely crazy because there is a possibility that in the near future the genome of a human embryo could be modified to be the “perfect” baby. I had seen on social media a while back talking about using stem cell engineering to have a baby outside the womb and I thought it was a joke until now. This new discovery will bring a lot of controversy, because women will no longer be the only one to carry a child, which could stir up a lot of religious beliefs. In the New York Times article, the authors mention how this could be a discovery with a lot of ethical issues.
This new technology can change so many things in the future, like who gets to decide and regulate access to embryo editing? Will this been mainly available to high income people? I think it’s an amazing tool but there a lot of ethical guidelines that would need to be set.
Bio Questions: 1-4 Due: 5/2/19
1. List the common infertility problems in women. What is the major infertility problem in men? Is it correctable?
2. Why should women consider collecting and freezing oocytes for use later in life when they want to have children? What are the risks associated with older women having children?
3. In selecting target cells to receive a transferred gene in gene therapy, what factors do you think would have to be taken into account?
4. A couple has a child with neurofibromatosis. They come to your genetic counseling office for help. After taking an extensive family history, you determine that there is no history of this disease on either side of the family. The couple wants to have another child and wants to be advised about the risks of that child having neurofibromatosis. What advice do you give them?