On February 15th 2017, Broad Institute of MIT won a long fought rights battle against other universities such as UC Berkeley, and gained rights to CRISPR. So what is CRISPR? And what’s special about it?
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats or CRISPR for short is a gene editing methodology that allows scientists to remove certain parts of DNA and replace it with others. The methodology was first observed in bacteria that used it to defend themselves from viruses. Scientists have figured out that CRIPSR can be used to stop HIV, cure colour blindness and even revive the woolly mammoth!
So what’s the problem? Humanity has a tendency to exploit science to meet its ends. It was fear of this very tendency that caused Einstein to flee Nazi Germany, taking his research with him.
Science certainly paints a utopian picture of a world without diseases or ‘problems’. But where does the definition of a problem stop. Is being ‘short’ a problem? Is being ‘fat’ an imperfection? The advent of CRIPSR just strengthens these moral questions.
If today CRIPSR can be used to treat HIV, then why not obesity tomorrow? Can it be used to make people tall? Or even beautiful? History teaches us that with no regulatory force, anything that was meant for all the good in the world can do the exact opposite. What then can stop governments from making super soldiers or armies from making weapons?
The role of scientists simply cannot stop with discovery. They need to debate and discuss and come up with regulatory laws. While the future will take its course, whatever can be said it the development of CRIPSR has opened new door for mankind, one that can never be closed.