Today, there is increasing popularity of gene editing among parents and medical experts. Thanks to modern technology regarded as CRISPR-Cas9, parents can now alter the genomes of their babies in a bid to avoid either genetic disorders or disabilities. However, like most biotechnologies, its application has sparked varying views and debates as to its morality.
Beyond that, there are also various technical, safety, and legal restrictions on DNA editing in embryos. Similarly, some countries are more conducive to the process than others, due to claims of gene editing’s negative implications. However, this procedure provides a meaningful opportunity to avoid genetic disorders and disabilities, among others. In light of this, this essay examines the positives of gene editing in a bid to establish that gene editing for kids is good.
Naturally, genes are unique components that every individual inherits from their parents. They are made up of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and are found in the chromosomes. They, in turn, determine the physical traits – such as hair color, eye color, and skin color of a child. It also influences the gender of a child, the number of oxygens that the blood can hold, and, more importantly, susceptibility to certain diseases. Usually, these diseases are a result of a change or mutation in one or more of the about 25 000 genes contained in each human cell. (Larissa, 2014)
In light of this, gene editing – otherwise referred to as gene therapy – has emerged such that those bad or mutated genes can be replaced with ‘good’ ones in a bid to avoid diseases and specific traits. However, this therapy might either be Somatic or Germline. In the former, good genes are applied to treat a patient but do not pass on to their children. (Larissa, 2014)
In the latter – usually, the case with gene editing for kids - genes in sperm cells or eggs get modified through the injection of bits of DNA into fertilized eggs. The effect is that changes in the genomes of the child occur, and future generations can inherit these changes. (Larissa, 2014)
Further, this medical procedure has multiple approaches. Noteworthy, there is the Preimplantation genetic analysis that grants individuals undergoing in vitro fertilization, access to examine embryos, and choose those that are not susceptible to diseases-inducing mutations. (Erika, 2016)
Similarly, there is the Mitochondrial replacement procedure that allows the replacement of a modest number of genes from the mother with genes from donors. Noteworthy, although a relatively new method, the United Kingdom has acknowledged its use for kids with risk various genetic disorders. There is also the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which allows for a broad range of interventions in human genomes such as altering the germline to prevent the possibility of human immunodeficiency (HIV) infection. (Colata et al., 2018)
Necessarily, more so the field of its application – bioengineering – various arguments have emerged in opposition to the application of gene editing in children. Prime among these arguments is that, like most medical procedures, there are various risks – grave – associated with gene editing that makes it undesirable.
From affecting more cells than intended to risk of cancer from wrong placements to overexpression wherein there is a surplus production of protein, leading to damage, this procedure comes with its limitations. Simply, to its critics, these limitations are very high such that the benefit of the technology does not justify the risks involved.
Even more, there are concerns about what traits should be the subject of attention. According to critics, gene editing technologies may create an environment that engenders applications based on financial motivation. In turn, rather than focus on eradicating genetic disorders, enterprises may prioritize the creation of genetic perfections such as a complete sportsperson for financial gains.
The possibilities of gene editing are broad and far-reaching such that the identification of its full implications might be improbable at this stage of its emergence. However, regardless of the limitations and risks inherent in gene editing, one thing that gene editing brings to fore is the provision of a disability-free life to children. While this seems vague, the experience of John Sabine brings this to reality.
Aged over 60 years, John Sabine was once regarded as a legal juggernaut in England. However, he is now in the latter stage of the Huntington disease. As such, he cannot talk or walk and is in constant need of special care. Worse, his junior brother, Charles Sabine, has the same medical condition that causes the disease. Thus, he lives knowing that like his father and now brother, he will eventually face the same challenge – a deterioration of his body and brain. (Erika, 2016)
Also, these brothers have children who have a 50% likelihood of inheriting this medical condition. Without a doubt, to these brothers and the hundreds of others like them, gene editing poses an excellent benefit for their kids as it enables them to spare their kids from the Huntington disease. (Erika, 2016)
Simply beyond the ethical and legal issues that may arise, gene editing is good as it reduces children’s exposure to genetically damaging diseases. In turn, it allows them a better health condition and prevents generation-long suffering of genetic disabilities.
The emergence of new technologies continues to expand the bandwidth of what is considered acceptable among humans. Usually shunned at first; eventually, humans embrace the possibilities and continue to explore it. This is the case with the gene-editing of kids. Although there is a limited report of those that first embraced the procedure, various thoughts have emerged on the practicability and usefulness of the gene-editing technology.
While some doubt the possibility of its general application in the society, some believe that its use is a duty as it eliminates fatal conditions. Similarly, others have posited the necessity of a wide-range consultation with people with disabilities to avoid future harmful use of the technology. Regardless, one thing is clear: gene editing for kids is good.
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