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Gene Editing And Genetics

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Genes are the building blocks of DNA, which makes us who we are. Gene Editing is the process of breaking the double strand of DNA and then deleting the gene disruption. It then replaces the disruption with a new and healthy strand of DNA. Gene editing affects life on earth. Our genome affects us and our behaviour towards others. Gene editing changes an organism’s genes to alter its traits. If you alter the genes, you change the being carrying them.

The DNA inside us is inherited from our parents. Humans have a mix of two sets of genes. These sets of genes make up our genome. The combination is made from DNA given by our parents. In some cases, the DNA contains errors that can cause illnesses, that is called Genetic Diseases. However, scientists and doctors have reported that gene editing can solve this.

Gene editing is very precise and as scientists continue to research and make breakthroughs, this has resulted in a new technology for Gene editing called CRISPR Cas9. CRISPR Cas9 is a revolutionary technology and by discovering it, the cost of Gene Editing has minimised by 99%. The technology and the process are now simple. The time it takes to perform genetic modification has shrunk from a year to a few weeks. CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR was developed from a natural genome editing system found in bacteria. The bacteria rescues small pieces of DNA from foreign viruses. It then uses those to make CRISPR arrays which are DNA segments. The arrays give the bacteria the ability to remember the viruses. If the viruses invade the body again, the bacteria produce RNA pieces from the CRISPR arrays to lock on the viruses’ genetic code. It then uses the Cas9 protein, on a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart and then repair it, which immobilises the virus (U.S National Library of Science). Scientists have used this process to develop their own.

Cas9 protein’s process of editing DNA

The new procedure scientists have created is similar. The scientists first locate the sequence of DNA that needs to be edited. They then create a specific piece of bespoke RNA that recognises the stretch of DNA. The RNA piece is made using CRISPR. The RNA piece is then connected to the protein Cas9 which introduces the RNA snip to target cells. It then locates the targeted DNA sequence and cuts it. Scientists can edit the segment either by removing, modifying or inserting pieces of DNA. They do this by programming CRISPR to edit single genes in the DNA piece.

Humans have been cross-breeding plants for thousands of years. This was done in order to make food more suitable to eat. Selective breeding was used to make domesticated animals such as Cats or Dogs. In ancient times, selective breeding was the only option to make an organism more fitting for us. Gene editing is a much more efficient form of selective breeding because it gives us the ability to pick the traits we want. When the DNA structure was discovered and became familiar to scientists and doctors, they tried to play around with it. They used radiation and exposed different plants to it. They hoped to get a random mutation that was useful and they were occasionally successful.

Banana before domestication and Banana after domestication

Scientists injected living organisms into bits of DNA for research purposes in the 1970s. Four years later, a gene-edited mouse was born. This discovery has led to mice being the regular tool for research for testing products which has saved millions of lives. In 1994, the first commercially available, genetically modified food was on sale in supermarkets. It was called the “Flavr Savr” tomato and it had a much longer shelf life than a regular tomato. In the 1990s, babies that carried genes from three humans were born. These babies were the first humans ever to have three biological parents.

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Gene editing also introduces us to the world of Designer Babies. Often, genetic diseases are caused by a single incorrect letter in an organism’s DNA. Genome Editing technology such as CRISPR can be programmed to correct a single letter in a living being’s DNA. CRISPR can also be programmed to give a person enhanced abilities and can also change the gender of a baby. As well as eradicating your baby’s genetic disease, you could also give them a strong metabolism, or make them incredibly intelligent. The possibilities are limitless. Gene editing has the power to save endangered species of animals. It can also resurrect extinct ones, like the dodo bird or the woolly mammoth. According to the Salk Institute, it can suppress aging, enhance the quality of health and extend an organism’s life span.

Gene editing has the potential to edit the whole body

Many diseases are linked to aging, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Progeria is a disease that changes the production of proteins in a cell called Lamin A and Lamin C. Progeria makes Lamin A into Progerin which is a more toxic form which accumulates with age and is a problem with people who have progeria. With CRISPR Cas9, Salk Institute researchers delivered a gene therapy into mice with Progeria. They injected an adeno-associated virus (AAV) which contained two guide RNA’s and a reporter gene. The guide RNA makes the Cas9 protein cut the Lamin A and Progerin which makes it useless. Two months after the experiment, the mice showed strong signs of increasing health and strength. With this technique, CRISPR can eradicate aging indefinitely. Perhaps one of the most promising areas of gene editing is Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s.

GMO’s are gene-edited fruits, plants, animals and vegetables. Scientists have reported that all GMO’s are safe to eat and perhaps even healthier for you than its original form. BT crops are a type of GMO and they contain a gene segment from the bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (hence the name BT) which contains a protein that breaks down the digestive system of some insects and bugs. This means that the crop is a pesticide to insects and bugs. These organisms are completely safe for eating and are similar to coffee. Harmful to insects, but safe for our consumption. BT crops are only harmful to a specific design of digestive tract from insects and they can be programmed. Some GMO’s are engineered to be resistant to pesticide, so farmers can use pesticide without worrying about damaging their crops. Eggplant is an important plant in Bangladesh and its economy thrives on it. But when eggplant got harvested, they would be destroyed by pests. They had to rely on pesticide which harmed the eggplant and was bad for the farmer’s health as they frequently got sick. The BT eggplant was made in 2013 and it saved the eggplants in Bangladesh and it reduced pesticide use by farmers from over 80%.

GMO plant compared to Non-GMO plant

However, gene editing also raises some ethical issues. People are afraid of gene editing because it is a controversial area of science. With the power of gene editing, countries could start wars with each other via an army of super-soldiers created with the help of gene editing. Fascists like Adolf Hitler could have a race of blue-eyed and blonde-haired people. The Asia Pacific Society of Human Genetics (APSHG) commented “… the potential for abuse exists. Therefore there is a strong urge to educate professionals, researchers, journals, and IRB’s about this technology. The benefits of this technology should not be extinguished because of the possibility of poor oversight or misuse.”

The ethical issues of gene editing can be split into 2 categories. Issues related to the failure of gene editing, and issues related to the success of gene editing. There are many companies that are worrying about the financial concerns of gene editing. NEW Drug Development Paradigms quoted “The cost isn’t going down. Companies will respond ‘We are developing these medicines, just pay us’; insurers will say, ‘We cannot afford it.” Gene editing is used to make a gene therapy called Glybera. It uses viruses to slip pieces of a gene into human cells to restore an enzyme that is used to break down fat. It costs $1.4 million per patient.

If gene editing is a success, it will be very expensive. Only people who have money will be able to “upgrade” themselves with gene editing. Middle class and poor people will not be able to afford to edit themselves with gene editing. This will raise the issue of “Classism” and if gene-edited humans become the new standard, the people who can’t afford gene editing will become victims of discrimination. In the future, parents will make the decision if they want their babies to become gene-edited. If they make their baby very tall and it grows to hate being tall, the kid will blame its parents for making the decision. Pesticide companies will flourish with gene editing as BT crops are engineered to be immune to pesticide. Farmers will be encouraged to use large amounts of pesticide to kill either weeds or pests and pesticide companies will gain enormous profits. Gene editing will also put pharmacies out of business. With gene editing, you can edit yourself to be immune to the common cold and there will be no need for medicine that can help you get rid of cough or a sore throat.

Gene editing is a powerful tool in the field of scientific and medical technology. It can potentially solve all the world’s problems. It will revolutionise the way we live and will assist humanity immensely. However, if gene editing is the way of the future, we will have to wait to unlock the next step of humanity.

References

  1. https://uom-search.clients.squiz.net/s/search.html?query=gene+editing&collection=unimelb-researchers
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/16/woolly-mammoth-resurrection-scientists
  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190219111747.htm
  4. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/genomicresearch/genomeediting
  5. https://wwwhttps://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/genomicresearch/genomeediting.statnews.com/2017/06/26/crispr-insurance-companies-pay/
  6. https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000224&type=printable
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1a2larfMIA
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAhjPd4uNFY
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnzcwTyr6cE
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TmcXYp8xu4
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcEV3m9SG9M
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD0Onu2ArGA
  13. Kelly E. Ormond, Douglas P. Mortlock, Caroline E. Young – Human Germline Genome Editing
  14. Patrick D. Hsu, Eric S. Lander and Feng Zang – Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering

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Gene Editing And Genetics. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/gene-editing-and-genetics/
“Gene Editing And Genetics.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/gene-editing-and-genetics/
Gene Editing And Genetics. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/gene-editing-and-genetics/> [Accessed 5 Oct. 2022].
Gene Editing And Genetics [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Oct 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/gene-editing-and-genetics/
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