Science, Research, Regulations, Ethics and Hazards of Gene Editing/CRISPR
Gene "editing" human DNA - the sacrosanct essence and blueprint of Life - poses a myriad of extremely alarming issues and irreversible hazards to the very essence, nature and future survival of humanity and of all Life on this planet. As the Committee members of the Summit themselves admit and write in the Summit Statement:
"Gene editing might also be used, in principle, to make genetic alterations in gametes or embryos, which will be carried by all of the cells of a resulting child and will be passed on to subsequent generations as part of the human gene pool. Examples that have been proposed range from avoidance of severe inherited diseases to ‘enhancement’ of human capabilities. Such modifications of human genomes might include the introduction of naturally occurring variants or totally novel genetic changes thought to be beneficial.
Germline editing poses many important issues, including: (i) the risks of inaccurate editing (such as off-target mutations) and incomplete editing of the cells of early-stage embryos (mosaicism); (ii) the difficulty of predicting harmful effects that genetic changes may have under the wide range of circumstances experienced by the human population, including interactions with other genetic variants and with the environment; (iii) the obligation to consider implications for both the individual and the future generations who will carry the genetic alterations; (iv) the fact that, once introduced into the human population, genetic alterations would be difficult to remove and would not remain within any single community or country; (v) the possibility that permanent genetic ‘enhancements’ to subsets of the population could exacerbate social inequities or be used coercively; and (vi) the moral and ethical considerations in purposefully altering human evolution using this technology."
Earlier in 2015, several American scientists including two Nobel Prize winners called for a debate on the genetic engineering of humans, warning that the technology able to change the DNA of future generations is now “imminent.” Meanwhile, Another group of scientists published a statement in which they said that it was “irresponsible” to create genetically modified babies/humans at this point in time without ruling out the possibility and desire to do so in the future: " Almost everyone says it’s premature for clinical use and there should be a delay, but it doesn’t mean it should be ruled out forever; it’s like stem-cell research. It needs to be regulated but without too much constraint or endangering the whole enterprise.” said Richard Hynes, the MIT cancer biologist who co-chairs the Human Gene Editing study. A separate group of scientists working within the biotech industry have also published a statement warning that “scientists should agree not to modify the DNA of human reproductive cells” because it raises safety and ethical risks including the danger of “unpredictable effects on future generations.”
Gene Editing precise, accurate and efficient ?
Dr. Jonathan Latham - a prominent scientific expert on biotechnology - debunks the myths surrounding the incessantly repeated misleading and fraudulent claims of the purported "precision," "accuracy" and "efficiency" of Gene Editing/CRISPR.
Dr. Latham alarmingly writes that Gene Editing “can induce mutations at sites that differ by as many as five nucleotides from the intended target”, i.e. CRISPR may act at unknown sites in the genome where it is not wanted (). So far, it is technically not possible to make a single (and only a single) genetic change to a genome using CRISPR and be sure one has done so (). As Fichtner noted “in mammalian systems Cas9 causes a high degree of off-target effects”. And at least until modified versions come into use, this will limit the safety, and hopefully limit the application, of CRISPR and related biotechnologies. There is, furthermore, no guarantee that more precise versions of CRISPR are even biologically possible. Technically therefore, precision is a myth: no form of genome editing can do what is currently being claimed.
The second key error of CRISPR boosters is to assume that, even if we had complete precision, this would allow control over the consequences for the resulting organism. A classic example of how DNA can still reveal unexpected functions decades after discovery is the CaMV 35S promoter, a DNA sequence used in commercialised GMO plants for almost twenty years. The CaMV 35S DNA is described in every application for commercial use as a simple DNA “promoter” (an “on” switch for gene expression).
In 1999, however, the CaMV 35S “promoter” was found to encode a recombinational hotspot (Kohli et al., 1999). In 2011 it was found to produce massive quantities of small RNAs. These RNAs probably function as decoys to neutralise the plant immune system (Blevins et al., 2011). One year later still, regulators found it to contain an overlapping viral gene whose functions are still being elucidated (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). Will we ever know enough about any DNA sequence to accurately describe changing it as “editing”?
The third error of CRISPR advocates is to imply that changes to gene functions can be presumed to be discrete and constrained. The concept of the precise editing of a genome leading to a precise biological outcome depends heavily on the conception that genes give rise to simple outputs. This is the genetic paradigm taught in schools. It is also the paradigm presented to the public and that even plays a large role in the thinking of molecular genetic researchers.
However, a defined, discrete or simple pathway from gene to trait probably never exists. Most gene function is mediated murkily through highly complex biochemical and other networks that depend on many conditional factors, such as the presence of other genes and their variants, on the environment, on the age of the organism, on chance, and so forth. Geneticists and molecular biologists, however, since the time of Gregor Mendel, have striven to find or create artificial experimental systems in which environmental or any other sources of variation are minimised so as not to distract from the more “important” business of genetic discovery.
But by discarding organisms or traits that do not follow their expectations, geneticists and molecular biologists have built themselves a circular argument in favour of a naive deterministic account of gene function. Their paradigm habitually downplays the enormous complexities by which information passes (in both directions) between organisms and their genomes. It has created an immense and mostly unexamined bias in the default public understanding of genes and DNA. This is not my argument. It belongs to Richard Lewontin of Harvard University, probably the most famous geneticist of our time." Source: http://www.independentsciencenews.org/science-media/gods-red-pencil-crispr-and-the-three-myths-of-precise-genome-editing/