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Scientists can now play God

How science can now change our DNA
Humans can now edit DNA, what will come of this?

Scientists now can edit our genomes and the structure of our DNA. Why is this important? And, can playing god cause more harm than good?

DNA is our body’s instruction manual for life and is in charge of how bodies function. Our human sequence is a complex array of numbers and letters that together enable the function of our bodies.

all things in nature, mistakes do happen and their effects are massive. 

The difference between normal red blood cells and sickle cells. (CDC)

Sickle cell disease is a result of a mutation that causes hemoglobin, a protein in blood that makes blood cells round and transfers oxygen throughout the body. In a person with sickle cell anemia, hemoglobin amounts are doubled. This is a result of a bodily function that happens during pregnancy. A baby’s oxygen levels must be doubled for a child to survive before birth.

As a result of this, oxygen movement is slowed and blood cells take up a half crescent shape due to the firmness of the blood. The blood cells get caught on the walls of our cell membranes impeding the flow of blood and oxygen to our vital organs. These delays cause many health complications including severe inflammation and pain throughout the body and in the worst case can cause a stroke leading to death or life-long paralysis.

If only there was a way for our genetic sequence to be edited and errors fixed. Scientists have long contemplated this idea, with the first serious approach being in 1987 when a scientist was researching E. coli. Since then scientists have worked to make this science a reality with the first large-scale tests taking place in 2020. In 2023, the medicine was officially approved by the FDA and made history as the first ever gene editing treatment in the world.

How does the medicine treat sickle cell?

The treatment targets the number one cause of the disease: the release of fetal hemoglobin by essentially deleting the broken genetic code and injecting a corrected sequence. The result of this is the deactivation of the release of fetal hemoglobin and the start of the normal production levels of hemoglobin, which allows for the smooth flow of blood cells and oxygen transfer. Patients who receive this treatment have reported nearly all of their symptoms going away essentially overnight. 

This diagram shows how the treatment works. (MRS Bulletin)

This approval opens medical doors to future breakthroughs with the eventual goal to use this technology to cure cancer. However, some concerns follow this breakthrough, including possible implications for the children of patients and the astronomical price tag of this treatment, priced at 2.2 million, leaving patients at a standstill.

There are, also, the risks of future complications caused by this treatment with fears of the medicine changing healthy genes, which can create more problems than what was repaired. This is new technology. Will this tech change the world or cause more trouble than it’s worth?                                                         

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About the Contributor
Matthew Gemme
Matthew Gemme, Staff Reporter
I am a junior at Sutton. That is all you get.

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