CRISPR Gene Editing: Are Designer Babies Just Around the Corner?

Imagine a world where choosing your child’s eye color, height, and even shoe size is as simple as selecting options from a menu.

This scenario, once a figment of sci-fi imagination, is edging closer to reality with Crisper’s latest breakthrough in gene editing.

On December 8, 2023, the FDA approved CRISPR’s pioneering gene editing drug for treating sickle cell disease, signaling a monumental leap in genetic science.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

CRISPR: A Company Reshaping Our Genetic Destiny

Founded in 2013 and going public in 2016 (ref), CRISPR has evolved into a colossal entity in the biotech world, boasting a market value fluctuating around $60-$68 per share, translating to a staggering $4.3 billion valuation (PDF).

Its rise reflects a growing fascination and investment in gene editing’s potential to not only cure diseases but also to redefine human capabilities.

CRISPR stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats”, a complex name for a revolutionary technology. It allows scientists to edit genes in organisms with incredible precision. This includes adding, removing, or altering sections of DNA.

Its method involves two key components: the Cas9 enzyme and a guide RNA, together executing precise DNA modifications (ref).

Transforming Lives: Stories of Hope & Caution

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Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock.

Among the many touched by CRISPR’s technology, Victoria Gray’s story stands out. A 37-year-old sickle cell disease survivor, she describes her treatment as a rebirth, experiencing significant health improvements after receiving a transfusion of genetically edited cells.

On the flip side, the story of Terry Horan, a 27-year-old participant in a CRISPR trial for Duchenne muscular dystrophy who tragically passed away, highlights the potential risks and unknowns still inherent in this nascent field.

The Ethical Quandary: Playing God or Advancing Humanity?

CRISPR’s capabilities extend beyond curing diseases. In 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui used CRISPR to create the world’s first gene-edited infants, a controversial act that sparked global condemnation.

This incident underscores the ethical dilemmas posed by gene editing: Are we playing God? What are the long-term consequences of tampering with human genetics?

Endless Possibilities & Profound Concerns

As we stand at the precipice of a new era in genetics, the possibilities seem boundless. From curing genetic diseases to potentially editing traits in embryos, CRISPR’s technology could redefine the human experience. However, this power comes with significant risks and ethical considerations.

The potential for misuse, unintended consequences, and the moral implications of “designing” humans are issues that society will need to grapple with as this technology continues to evolve.

CRISPR’s journey from a small start-up to a biotech giant illustrates the rapid advancements in gene editing.

Its potential to cure diseases and alter human genetics is both exhilarating and daunting. As we navigate this brave new world, the balance between harnessing genetic power for good and respecting the natural order of life remains a pivotal challenge for humanity.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.