In life, there are certain topics most people would rather avoid discussing. When it comes to performing surgery on human embryos, a lot of people would rather not give it a second thought. However, Chinese researchers may have found a way to remove diseases before a person is even properly born. It is a major breakthrough in the world of healthcare, although additional research is still needed.
Chemical Surgery on Human Embryos
Despite the marvels of technology, it is evident there are many areas of human development that we have yet to fully comprehend. We do know some people are born with genetic diseases which impact their chance of living a long life. Finding cures can often only be done after birth, which is not a foolproof method by any means. Chinese researchers have been looking at ways to come up with solutions to these conundrums. Their latest technique involves base editing the genetic code of human embryos.
Granted, this concept sounds a lot like meddling with things that aren’t ours to interfere with in the first place. Modifying human DNA is a topic of substantial debate, for obvious reasons. Playing God is not something modern science should allow by any means, even though this research certainly makes for a very compelling argument. More specifically, being able to correct “errors” in human DNA in order to preclude disease is worth exploring, at least.
The first question when discussions like these arise is what else modern science is capable of when modifying human embryo DNA. After all, removing genes which are known to cause disease is one thing, but what if such a technique were used for implanting diseases or other “traits” as well? Using chemical surgery to achieve this goal would be an interesting way of going about things. Base editing alters the fundamentals of DNA, but it seems the potential for such invasive measures is still limited in terms of negative repercussions.
In a way, it is good to see a feasible solution to roll back “bad” building blocks found in human DNA. Curing genetic disease will allow future generations of humans to live longer, which can only be considered a good thing. While these studies are still in the very early stages, a successful trial has already been conducted. Just last week, researchers removed Beta thalassemia, a blood disorder, from an embryo. Other inherited diseases should theoretically be treatable in a similar manner.
It is worth mentioning that this experiment was not conducted on a “living” human embryo. Instead, the team created its own human embryo to successfully perform this experiment. It is a revolutionary way of solving some major health issues, even though gene-editing will always be met with criticism. CRISPR is by far one of the more advanced forms of gene-editing to date, as it breaks DNA in order to insert new genetic information.
So far, the scientific community is rather warm toward this new development. Some people have gone as far as calling it “ingenious”, although the general public may not necessarily feel the same way. Doing some more testing on animal embryos may have been a better course of action, rather than moving on to human embryos right away. Scientists will continue to explore ways to manipulate human DNA; that much is rather evident. These methods will not be used clinically in the near future, though.