The technology for the selective breeding of plants

The
central dogma is the cornerstone to understanding the flow of genetic
information at the molecular level. The precise manipulation of this model is
essential to CRISPR or clustered
regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. As evidenced by history,
genetic engineering is not a new concept. Surely, humans have utilized the
technology for the selective breeding of plants and animals. More recently,
genetic engineering has been used in humans with in-vitro fertilization and pronuclear
transfer, also commonly known as test tube and three-parent babies. The complex
ethical concerns involved with CRISPR technology are whispers of the same
issues that plagued in-vitro fertilization in the 1970’s. Before utilizing
CRISPR technology, several concerns must be addressed before maximizing these
tools with the potential to revolutionize medicine.

The organization of these
articles provides insight to the questions they address and the arguments’
presentation. The first article acted as an introduction to CRISPR technology.

The article provides several infographics and detailed explanations of
CRISPR-Cas9 systems for genome editing and regulation.  In effect, CRISPR sequences, transcribed into
RNA sequences can essentially guide an RNA-Cas9 complex to a target DNA site so
that Cas9 can bind to the DNA and cut it, essentially turning the gene off. By
utilizing Cas9 derivatives, scientists hope to remove, add and change genes at
a particular locus (Lo & Qi, 2017).  In
“Emerging ethical perspectives in the clustered regularly interspaced short
palindromic repeats genome-editing debate,” the authors first establish the application
of CRISPR technology (Camporesi & Cavaliere, 2016). The article investigates the legal
and ethical contexts of oppositions to this technique beyond that of human
embryos, concerning the implementation of the gene editing software to
eradicate disease vectors, as well as agriculture and organ transplants. The
researchers recognize the ability to use this technology for ill purposes,
including biological warfare, as well as the need to not appeal to moral
imperative arguments, and the ever-present lack of trust from the public in
science. The article ends by discussing recent milestones of CRISPR and establishes some criticisms of the
technology that is still in its early stages (Camporesi
& Cavaliere,
2016).

In “Human germline CRISPR-Cas modification,” the paper starts by introducing
the software, a seemingly common thread in all of the research papers. The
article differs by its brevity in establishing ethical concerns. It immediately
provides a proposal for oversight of gene modification research, including the implementation
of checkpoints. The article makes a point to differentiate between several
guidelines, including clinical development, research and distribution. Authors
combat several ethical concerns by establishing standards and presenting
arguments to support these recommendations. For instance, the authors argue
that the informed consent is not needed in the first generation of children born
from CRISPR, as parents often make medical decisions for their children and
subsequent generations should not be presumed to hold such a right. The paper
for this model regulatory framework goes so far as to develop a protocol. This
efficacious article, like others, finishes by providing suggestions for further
policy research (Evitt, Mascharak, & Altman,
2015).

 In the article, “Towards a CRISPR
view of early human development,” researchers introduce CRISPR, then explore
the applications and limitations of such a system. While the authors appreciate
the potential to disrupt gene function in embryos, they also understand that
there are limitations implicit to the technology, including mosaicism,
off-target effects and accessibility and ability to analyze these embryos. Additionally,
the authors discuss ethical considerations of CRISPR, noting that moratoriums
have been put in place due of CRISPR’s ability to permanently cause inheritable
changes in the human genome. Recent research shows that CRISPR is in no
position to be considered a therapeutic treatment, though it may have a better
application as a tool for basic research of early human embryonic development (Reyes
and Lanner, 2017).

As aforementioned, the arguments against CRISPR are not novel. These
ethical questions were posed with the introduction of in-vitro fertilization,
the most infamous of which are so-called designer babies. The four publications
address other issues, as well. Some of the issues referenced in the articles
include using CRISPR technology on germ cells rather than somatic cells. By
using germ cells, researchers are in effect modifying the genome at a germline
level and so unintended consequences could be passed down for several
generations (Camporesi
& Cavaliere,
2016). Moreover, lack of
consent is also a concern as children born to CRISPR technology do not have the
capability to consent to being subjected to this software (Evitt, Mascharak, & Altman, 2015).  Additionally, CRISPR is in its very early
stages and so while it is a promising technology, it is not nearly established
enough to act as a fix-all to provide total genome control (Reyes and Lanner,
2017).  

            The
resounding implications of CRISPR are still in question, but before any
judgement can be made, these ethical concerns must be addressed. In the past
month, it was announced that Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive
muscle-wasting illness, was fixed in human cells using CRISPR-cpf1 technology (Zhang et al., 2017). Clearly, CRISPR can change the lives of many fighting life-threatening
diseases such as these, but it must be used responsibly to protect respect for persons, beneficence, and justice (Evitt, Mascharak, & Altman, 2015).