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The days of Gattaca are fast approaching

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The discovery of the CRISR/CAS9 method of editing DNA has given rise a number of possible applications including repairing genetic diseases. But it can also be used to edit the DNA of sperm and egg cells as well as the cells that create them. That means genetically engineered humans, made to order.

Sci-fi novels and films like Gattaca no longer have a monopoly on genetically engineered humans. Real research scripts about editing the human genome are now appearing in scientific and medical journals. But the reviews are mixed.

In Gattaca, nearly everyone was genetically altered, their DNA adjusted to prevent disease, enhance intelligence and make them look good. Today, only people treated with gene therapy have genetically engineered DNA. But powerful new gene editing tools could expand the scope of DNA alteration, forever changing humans' genetic destiny.

Not everyone thinks scientists should wield that power. Kindling the debate is a report by scientists from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, who have edited a gene in fertilized human eggs, called zygotes. The team used new gene editing technology known as the CRISPR/Cas9 system. That technology can precisely snip out a disease-causing mutation and replace it with healthy DNA. CRISPR/Cas9 has edited DNA in stem cells and cancer cells in humans. Researchers have also deployed the molecules to engineer other animals, including mice and monkeys (SN Online: 3/31/14; SN: 3/8/14, p. 7). But it had never before been used to alter human embryos.

While the technique is still far from perfect, it's only a matter of time before it becomes good enough to use to created enhanced humans.

edit: see the original article for a simple explanation of how the technique works.
 

dorsetknob

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Thanks for the insight.
While the technique is still far from perfect
Given China's record of human rights abuse, I cant see that as a problem, nor a cause for caution for their scientific community.

Can't make a new master race without breaking a few eggs zygotes
 

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I hate to say it but this was inevitable. It poses the same risk as fission weapons and self-aware AI--a Pandora's Box that is best not opened.
 
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It's a fine line between repairing disease causing DNA and tweaking DNA to make people stronger, smarter, have better coordination, etc. The real problem is that we don't really understand enough about our own molecular biology to make changes with any confidence that there won't be unintended consequences.

But there is definitely the possibility that these sorts of techniques could make the Island of Dr. Moreau look tame compared to what could be done. Imagine for example splicing in some plant DNA so that an animal has skin that contain chloroplasts and is capable of making sugar from CO2 and sunlight. Just give them a nice rock to bask on and you never need to feed them.

Anyone remember Farscape?

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Given how we spend on research to make sure we can get a boner all the way through our death beds and such I bet the first big breakthroughs will be to end saggy tits....
 
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Soylent Green will be next, once they perfect gene manipulation for the young.
 

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Given how we spend on research to make sure we can get a boner all the way through our death beds and such I bet the first big breakthroughs will be to end saggy tits....
Uhm, most of those drugs started off as an attempt to treat heart conditions. The clinical trials were giving men boners so they redirected their research towards...bonerification. XD

Theoretically, it should be possible to prevent aging. That's the one I fear the most because we already have over population problems.
 
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Uhm, most of those drugs started off as an attempt to treat heart conditions. The clinical trials were giving men boners so they redirected their research towards...bonerification. XD
You sure it wasn't the nurses? :D
 
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Theoretically, it should be possible to prevent aging. That's the one I fear the most because we already have over population problems.
Aging is a lot trickier than anyone thought. You could easily engineer cells to replace shortening telomeres but you also have the problem of DNA damage/repair and now it looks like how DNA gets packaged could also be an issue.

DNA disorganization may lead to aging

Aging is generally thought to result as cells lose the ability to repair and care for their DNA. Two main processes drive this breakdown: Damage to caretaker genes and the shortening of telomeres, the caps on chromosomes’ ends that maintain chromosome health and ensure smooth cell divisions. Both processes have been implicated in Werner syndrome. But the new research points to a third and overlooked mechanism: the disruption of tightly packed bundles of DNA called heterochromatin. When these bundled sections of the genome become disorganized, random stretches of DNA that are supposed to be inaccessible become exposed, resulting in cellular machinery gone wild.

HALLMARKS OF OLD AGE Compared with young people, cells taken from older people have far fewer proteins involved in keeping certain stretches of DNA tightly wound, a packaging failure that drives the aging process.
 
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