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Gene Editing Breakthrough: This Could Be The End Of Cancer And All Inherited Diseases, Expert Claims

First Posted: Feb 17, 2017 04:37 AM EST
Genomic Workshop
A digital representation of the human genome Aug. 15, 2001 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Each color represents one the four chemical components of DNA. (Image for representation only.)
(Photo : Mario Tama/Staff/Getty Images)

An expert said that gene editing could cure all inherited diseases within two decades. These include a condition such as Huntingdon's disease, cystic fibrosis and cancer.

Dr. Edze Westra, a bioscientist from the University of Exeter, explained that gene editing techniques that have been developed in recent years could be put to work to effectively end cancer and inherited diseases. He believed that the ability to splice DNA into cells precisely will become significant over the next 20 years. On the other hand, gene editing is quite controversial just like cloning and designer babies and rejected on moral grounds by many people, according to The Independent.

Gene editing could completely transform humans, according to Dr. Westra. People could be not affected by failing vision, cancer and disease of old age. He further said that there is always a risk with this kind of technology and fears about designer babies. They have begun having discussions about it so that they can understand the consequences and long-term risks.

In gene editing or also referred to as genome editing with engineered nucleases (GEEN), the DNA is deleted, inserted or replaced in the genome of a living organism using engineered nucleases or "molecular scissors." It modifies the DNA sequence (genotype) of an organism, which is called reverse genetic. This can be achieved through site-directed mutagenesis or polymerase chain reaction or through recombination-based methods, in which it uses the natural ability of cells to exchange DNA between its own genetic information and an exogenous DNA.

The National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine stated that gene editing should not be a red line in medical research. They said that with necessary safeguards, the gene editing could treat or prevent disease and disability. They added that this is a "realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration."

On the other hand, the critics argue that new gene editing techniques should never be used to change the inherited DNA. They think that this move could lead to designer babies with chosen features such as high intelligence or blue eyes, among others.

Meanwhile, Dr. Westra continues that gene editing is causing a true revolution in science and medicine, because it allows for very precise DNA surgery. He further said that a mutation in a gene that causes disease can now be repaired using CRISPR.

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