• Question: What is your stance on CRISPR and genetic modification.

    Asked by Evan to Aoife, Brian, Conor, Louise, Matthew on 14 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Louise Mc Grath

      Louise Mc Grath answered on 14 Nov 2016:

      Hi Evan!

      This is a very thought provoking question. I don’t think I can give you very clear answers for either of them because I agree with their use for some things but not everything!

      I don’t really understand much about CRISPR, other than it is like a gene editing tool. Based on what I have read about it, it could potentially be promising if used correctly! For example scientists could turn on genes that cause heart muscles to expand after a heart attack, or silence genes that fuel the growth of cancers. If that could be done with it then I think it is fantastic, however it’s a very powerful tool, and if in the wrong hands it could be deadly.. I would be ok with it being used only if it was regulated so it could only be used for certain purposes like the 2 things I mentioned!

      On the other hand, I believe in genetic modification again provided its all for good and not evil. If they can make food that will grow in places where there is drought, then isn’t that going to benefit mankind? It would certainly help those in 3rd world countries where they have little access to water.

      I think both can be very helpful and beneficial to mankind provided they are used for good, and that the things they are used for are regulated as otherwise it could become chaotic!

    • Photo: Aoife Lucid

      Aoife Lucid answered on 14 Nov 2016:

      Like Louise, I believe that CRISPR and gene modification in general is a fantastic tool so long as it’s used for things which are beneficial to society. It’s a really cool piece of science which could be the answer to a lot health problems facing us today. I definitely think we will see a Nobel prize for this work in the near future!

    • Photo: Matthew Kitching

      Matthew Kitching answered on 16 Nov 2016:

      Hi Evan,

      so CRISPR! is AWESOME!

      Without going into how it works – it can “turn off” genes by damaging the DNA but also can “turn on” genes by splicing in genes that weren’t in the cell to begin with. The SUPER COOL thing that CRISPR does is that it can “turn on” or “turn off” genes in living cells – even human embryos!

      The potential for this technology is incredible! we can turn off cancer, treat genetic diseases, and remove HIV DNA from cells (all have these have been done in labs, but not people yet).

      So whats the bad news? well the problem is you have pretty good control over the DNA present in Living cells – so you could give genes to people they never should have, or design babies to be exactly the way you wanted them to be (once the technology becomes advanced enough).

      On balance, the potential benefits are enormous – and could fundamental change how we treat disease – so its definitely worth studying. But what we should use it for, and more important, what we shouldn’t use it for…. that a decision that the whole of society should make together – not just scientists!

      Hope my answer is helpful 🙂 let me know if you want to find out more about how CRISPR works 🙂