Monday, August 8, 2016

First of all, just because I thought this was great, I want to share how my dad picked up this article, read it, and then kept asking again and again whether I had read it yet.  I guess I know where I get my fascination with biology from!  Second of all, CRISPR sounds like something to do with keeping salad greens fresh.  It is obviously an acronym for something important and relating to the process, but still.  
Ok, now down to article.  The genetics unit was my favorite; I loved how everything went together, how everything to do with how we operate is encoded in our DNA, and how we are still making new discoveries every day.  It just amazed me--and still does.  It is crazy to me, but also at the same time expected, that we can now edit DNA.  (It seems like it would be possible when I think back to the way DNA is unwound and replicated that at some point during that time we would be able to go in there and edit the DNA.  I’m not sure that’s when this gene editing would actually happen, but that would be interesting to know.)  I was wondering when this time would come, but now that it’s here, it’s still hard to believe.  
This whole advancement is incredibly interesting (WE CAN EDIT THE MOLECULE THAT DICTATES WHO WE ARE, WHAT?), but I found it especially so that NYC researcher Timothy Chan says that taking cells from the site of the tumor specifically would improve the method’s effectiveness, as these cells would already specialize in attacking the cancer.  I guess that makes sense, but I would love to know more about why and how that works.  I also found it interesting how involved China is with anything to do with gene editing and how quickly the nation moved ahead with this project.  It’s honestly kind of scary, and I have to wonder how meticulous they were when looking into the safety of the process and the possible side effects.  
So yeah, it’s insane and awesome that we can now edit our genes to delete one and perhaps cure cancer, but I also have worries, and being a bit of an anxious person, these stand out to me.  The issue of editing DNA in the wrong place (apparently a “well known” danger--eek!) is taken care of, because the cells will be examined before being inserted back into the patient, but other problems have not been resolved.  It sounds to me like the PD-1 gene is responsible for preventing cells from launching all-out immune responses and killing healthy cells, and so the fact that the goal of this gene editing is to remove this gene makes me concerned.  Does this mean that our immune system will no longer have limits and will then go kill healthy cells?  Chan has also expressed his worries regarding this, that the immune system will attack “the gut, or adrenaline glands or other normal tissue.”  Would this happen instead of killing the cancer?  Alongside killing the cancer?  After the body has done its job and the cancer has been wiped out?  And since gene editing is passed on to the next generation, what kind of implications would that have?  Would this mean that the next generation’s immune system would not be controlled?  I can only imagine that wouldn’t be good.  
Along slightly different lines, another question I have is what other genes the U.S. will be using in their pending trials, as they said they will be using the gene for PD-1, as well as knocking another one out and inserting a third, and why they are using these genes.  
This is a scary process and I can’t help but worry about the possible negative side effects, but I think that this is largely the case with any new idea.  Of course there are going to be issues with it, but will they overwhelm the positive effects?  That’s what we have to find out, and it sounds like we will be finding out soon.  

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