Advances and concerns raised by Crispr-Cas 9, the genetic scissors – Pledge Times

Posted: October 22, 2020 at 3:00 am

A researcher observes the process of genetic scissors in a laboratory in Berlin (Germany). (GREGOR FISCHER / DPA)

The genetic scissors, called Crispr-Case 9 discovered almost ten years ago, are actually genetic code scissors. They make it possible to separate two strands of DNA and replace or delete a gene. When American and French scientists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier made this discovery, it paved the way for much research. Today, American, European and Australian scientists are meeting in videoconference to take stock of their progress.

For example, Crispr is making great progress in research into gene therapy. Today, this technique makes it possible to treat people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, one of the genetic diseases often mentioned during the Telethon. Inserm was also able to reactivate a gene to fight against sickle cell anemia: a blood disease linked again to a genetic problem. Moreover, the company eGenesis works on pigs free of viruses dangerous to humans. The animals would then become perfect organ donors for patients awaiting transplants of the heart, pancreas, etc.

The Crispr technique has developed in many laboratories around the world and two years ago a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, caused a scandal after announcing that he had used it to create, through in vitro fertilization, two GMO babies resistant to HIV whose father was a carrier. According to a survey, in the MIT Technology Review, the researcher forced the hand of parents who saw in this genetic manipulation the only way to have children without risk. In addition, today it is not known how babies are doing and what other genetic consequences the use of Crispr has had on them. The researcher is still under house arrest in China.

Emmanuelle Charpentier in an interview on point obviously criticizes the failure to respect ethical criteria for the use of its scissors applied to research for humans. On the other hand, she does not share the doubts of peasant and environmental associations on plants modified by Crispr-Cas 9 and considered as GMOs in Europe. For her, her innovation makes it possible to boost a plant gene, to reproduce in an accelerated manner what can happen in nature. Its not like creating mutant plants with a gene that comes from other species.

Applied to theAgriculture, Crispr-Cas 9 makes it possible to create allergen-free peanuts, gluten-free wheat, more drought-resistant rice, but also to remove the horns of cows or to herd only males. Crispr-Cas 9 therefore asks even more to meditate on Rabelais sentence: Science without consciousness is nothing but the ruin of the soul.

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Advances and concerns raised by Crispr-Cas 9, the genetic scissors - Pledge Times

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