GMO Babies, Their Desinger Babies, and Their …
Majid Ali, M.D
Advances in genetic editing now allowing editing of genes in a way similar to editors editing texts with a word processes. They use synthetic chemical templates (RNA cookie-cutter molds, so to speak) to cut desired pieces of DNA. Nature taught cells to repair their DNA cut. But such repairs are not always perfect and imperfect repair can disable the gene. In one form of gene editing, a snippet of different DNA is inserted to fill the gap created by the cut. The DNA so edited passes on it information from generation to generation to generation. This is how genetically (GMO) babies produce more and more babies.
People who can afford the scientists can now fulfill their whims and dreams and have custom-made designer babies in different forms and shapes.
DNA Editing Illustrated
1. 2. RNA 3. Cas Protein 4. Matching 5. DNA CUT 6. DNA Repair 7. DNA Edited
DNA Spacer made from DNA
fashion genes are being edited by scientists EDITING Researchers are learning how to use synthetic RNA sequences to control the cutting of any piece of DNA they choose. The cell will repair the cut, but an imperfect repair may disable the gene. Or a snippet of different DNA can be inserted to fill the gap, effectively editing the DNA sequence.
Chinese GMO Monkeys
NYT MAY 11, 2015
Credit Matt Edge for The New York Times
BERKELEY, Calif. — As a child in Hilo, one of the less touristy parts of Hawaii, Jennifer A. Doudna felt out of place. She had blond hair and blue eyes, and she was taller than the other kids, who were mostly of Polynesian and Asian descent.
“I think to them I looked like a freak,” she recently recalled. “And I felt like a freak.”
Her isolation contributed to a kind of bookishness that propelled her toward science. Her upbringing “toughened her up,” said her husband, Jamie Cate. “She can handle a lot of pressure.”
These days, that talent is being put to the test.
Three years ago, Dr. Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, helped make one of the most monumental discoveries in biology: a relatively easy way to alter any organism’s DNA, just as a computer user can edit a word in a document.
The discovery has turned Dr. Doudna (the first syllable rhymes with loud) into a celebrity of sorts, the recipient of numerous accolades and prizes. The so-called Crispr-Cas9 genome editing technique is already widely used in laboratory studies, and scientists hope it may one day help rewrite flawed genes in people, opening tremendous new possibilities for treating, even curing, diseases.
But now Dr. Doudna, 51, is battling on two fronts to control what she helped create.
While everyone welcomes Crispr-Cas9 as a strategy to treat disease, many scientists are worried that it could also be used to alter genes in human embryos, sperm or eggs in ways that can be passed from generation to generation. The prospect raises fears of a dystopian future in which scientists create an elite population of designer babies with enhanced intelligence, beauty or other traits.
Scientists in China reported last month that they had already used the technique in an attempt to change genes in human embryos, though on defective embryos and without real success.
Dr. Doudna has been organizing the scientific community to prevent this ethical line from being crossed. “The idea that you would affect evolution is a very profound thing,” she said.
She is also fighting for control of what could be hugely lucrative intellectual property rights to the genome editing technique. To the surprise of many, the first sweeping patents for the technology were granted not to her, but to Feng Zhang, a scientist at the Broad Institute and M.I.T.
The University of California is challenging the decision, and the nasty skirmish has cast a bit of a pall over the field.
“I really want to see this technology used to help people,” Dr. Doudna said. “It would be a shame if the I.P. situation would block that.”
The development of the Crispr-Cas9 technique is a story in which obscure basic biological research turned out to have huge practical implications. For Dr. Doudna, though, it is only one accomplishment in a stellar career.
“She’s been a high-impact scientist from the time she was a graduate student,” said Thomas Cech, a Nobel laureate and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado, for whom Dr. Doudna was a postdoctoral researcher. “New topics, new fields of science, but she just has a knack for discovery.”
A ‘Dumbstruck’ Moment
Dr. Doudna was 7 when she moved to Hilo, where her father taught literature at the University of Hawaii campus there, and her mother lectured on history at a community college. Their daughter loved exploring the rain forests and was fascinated by how things worked. She found her calling in high school after hearing a lecture by a scientist about her research into how normal cells became cancerous.
“I was just dumbstruck,” Dr. Doudna recalled. “I wanted to be her.”
After studying biochemistry at Pomona College in California, she went to Harvard for graduate school. There her adviser, the future Nobel laureate Jack Szostak, was doing research on RNA. Some scientists believe that RNA, not DNA, was the basis of early life, since the molecule can both store genetic information and catalyze chemical reactions.
Dr. Doudna earned her doctoral degree by engineering a catalytic RNA that could self-replicate, adding evidence to that theory. But her inability to visualize this catalytic RNA hindered her work.
So as a postdoctoral researcher in Colorado, she decided to try to determine the three-dimensional atomic structure of RNA using X-ray diffraction — and succeeded, though she had had no formal training in the technique. Structural and biochemical studies of RNA in action have been her forte ever since.
In 2000, while on the faculty at Yalem she won award given each year by the National Science Foundation to an exceptional young scientist. She moved to Berkeley in 2002.
In 2005, Dr. Doudna was approached by Jillian Banfield, an environmental researcher at Berkeley who had been sequencing the DNA of unusual microbes that lived in a highly acidic abandoned mine. In the genomes of many of these microbes were unusual repeating sequences called “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” or Crispr.
No one was quite sure what they did, though over the next few years scientists elsewhere established that these sequences were part of a bacterial immune system. Between the repeated sequences were stretches of DNA taken from viruses that had previously infected the bacteria — genetic most-wanted posters, so to speak.
If the same virus invaded again, these stretches of DNA would permit the bacteria to recognize it and destroy it by slicing up its genetic material. Dr. Doudna was trying to figure out exactly how this happened.
“I remember thinking this is probably the most obscure thing I ever worked on,” she said.
It would prove to have wide use. At a conference in early 2011, she met Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist at Umea University in Sweden, who had already made some fundamental discoveries about the relatively simple Crispr system in