The Ethics and Future of CRISPR Gene Editing
As a gene editing technology that has proven its ability time and again, CRISPR provides many benefits for simplicity, efficiency, simple customization of targeted DNA and the ability to focus on multiple genes simultaneously. While new applications are being developed, the technology still has limitations, such as process impacting DNA regions beyond the target, requiring additional technique development and evaluation. A recent panel discussion on CRISPR gene editing included how gene editing techniques have evolved, challenges in measuring the efficacy of the process as well as future uses of the technology.
What are CRISPR Gene Editing Best Practices
- Before using CRISPR, spend time identifying what gene editing method is best for the process. Multiple CRISPR technologies are available for a range of medical and scientific cell lines, with some working better for specific cell and tissue types.
- Take advantage of new software and technology that support CRISPR gene editing. Because different software has different advantages, choosing the right technology can make a big difference in your results.
- Keep ethical goals in mine. Especially important for gene editing on human embryos, CRISPR technology provides too much risk for this type of research. Overall, benefits must outweigh drawbacks for it to be ethical.
CRISPR Gene Editing Ethics
CRISPR can be controversial. However, if there is a pressing medical need for gene editing, the technique is considered more acceptable. This makes it a question of when CRISPR should be used in gene editing, such as gene therapies to prevent or treat genetic disorders or improve organ transplant outcomes.
The decision of whether CRISPR use is ethical or not isn’t based on understanding of the techniques, but on the expected outcomes and that the technique is safe for specific applications. Because CRISPR doesn’t always provide concrete solutions during gene editing and the effects can be different based on mutations, the results can be unpredictable.
As an example, though CRISPR can be used safely in some situations, advanced human embryo gene editing research enters the unknown, so parents-to-be can’t make informed decisions about their child. Some argue that scientific studies on human embryo gene editing should be put on hold awaiting further scientific progression.
Recent CRISPR Developments
Recent developments in CRISPR technology have shown strong improvements, though there is still room for significant advancements in its efficacy and safety. That being said, new technologies are now able to better pinpoint CRISPR efficacy as well as faults within the process. These algorithms help scientists save time while providing detailed insights into efficiency of targeting efforts, as well as analysis of expected outcomes from gene editing, making it easier to find and edit the genes that have an impact on protein expression.
Though there have been improvements in measuring efficacy, there are still serious challenges. This is often related to budgetary limitations, because the best methods for measuring CRISPR efficacy are also the more expensive ways. As an example, scientists have previously measured technique effectiveness only where the edits were created. However, today’s modern toolkit view the entire genome. Because of the overwhelming amount of data and diverse results, it can be difficult to analyze the results.
As a rapidly-developing technology, CRISPR can be used in many applications, providing new editing and detection options. It can be used for advanced screening, diagnosis and testing, dramatically decreasing treatment delays and improving treatment. CRISPR’s use will start to move into other fields, such as agriculture, to produce healthier foods and better production figures. It will also start being used alongside other genetic technologies, providing precision editing alongside genome sequencing.