Firefight Breaks Out Over Gene-Editing Dangers
We have claims that a recent study highlighting gene-editing dangers was sloppily done, incompetent, and wrong.
Lovers of the revolutionary gene-editing tool, CRISPR, are crowing over a “victory,” but as usual the verdict is far from in.
The other day, I highlighted a 2017 study and quoted from a phys.org article, as follows: “…a new study published in Nature Methods has found that the gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the genome.”
“The researchers determined that CRISPR had successfully corrected a gene that causes blindness, but Kellie Schaefer, a PhD student in the lab of Vinit Mahajan, MD, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, and co-author of the study, found that the genomes of two independent gene therapy recipients [mice] HAD SUSTAINED MORE THAN 1500 SINGLE-NUCLEOTIDE MUTATIONS AND MORE THAN 100 LARGER [GENE] DELETIONS AND INSERTIONS. None of these DNA mutations were predicted by computer algorithms that are widely used by researchers to look for off-target effects.” (Emphasis is mine.)
Gizmodo reports: “Now, the authors [of that study] have published a preprint paper with some very different results: In a new mouse experiment, the authors did not find an excess of unintended genetic mutations, as they had in their initial work.”
“[The authors of the study state]: ‘Our previous publication suggested CRISPR-Cas9 editing at the zygotic stage might unexpectedly introduce a multitude of subtle but unintended mutations, an interpretation that not surprisingly raised numerous questions’…[But now we say] These whole-genome-sequencing-level results support the idea that in specific cases, CRISPR-Cas9 editing can precisely edit the genome at the organismal level and may not introduce numerous, unintended, off-target mutations’.”
Sounds like a partial, carefully worded mea culpa. On the other hand, perhaps the authors were leaned on and told to retract their work.
The point is, this conflict over CRISPR gene-editing is not going away. In my previous article on the subject, I also pointed out a quote from technologynetworks.com: “CRISPR-Cas9 systems, tools and basic methodology are very accessible as ready to go toolkits that anyone with lab space and an idea can pick up and start working with…In response to a growing need, companies such as Desktop Genetics have developed open access software to accelerate CRISPR experimentation and analysis.”
That’s good to know. “Anyone with lab space and an idea” can jump on board and have at it.
Yes, indeed. Scientists of various calibers with various motives—to say nothing of groups determined to wreak biological havoc—have access to the gene-editing tech—and if you think this is a good idea, you should think again.
Then we have a cautionary statement from one of the key researchers who helped discover CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna: “I guess I worry about a couple of things. I think there’s sort of the potential for unintended consequences of gene editing in people for clinical use. How would you ever do the kinds of experiments that you might want to do to ensure safety? And then there’s another application of gene editing called gene drive that involves moving a genetic trait very quickly through a population. And there’s been discussion about this in the media around the use of gene drives in insects like mosquitoes to control the spread of disease. On one hand, that sounds like a desirable thing, and on the other hand, I think one, again, has to think about potential for unintended consequences of releasing a system like that into an environmental setting where you can’t predict what might happen.”
Lovers of CRISPR want to believe the controversy is all over. They’re so, so wrong.
There’s more. The study which has provoked a firestorm is not the only one which reports “unintended consequences” from the use of CRISPR. Here is another one, published in Nature Communications on May 31, 2017, titled, “CRISPR/Cas9 targeting events cause complex deletions and insertions at 17 sites in the mouse genome.” As the title indicates, researchers found genetic “deletions and insertions” in the genome of mice as a result of CRISPR.
And how about this study? It was published in Genome Biology on June 14, 2017, and is titled, “CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing induces exon skipping by alternative splicing or exon deletion.” An exon is “a segment of a DNA or RNA molecule containing information coding for a protein or peptide sequence.” So you can see that exon skipping or deletion might not be a good idea.
But perhaps corporations involved in monetizing CRISPR would like to see these studies retracted, as well as the study I described at the beginning of this article.
Let’s apply a NEWS version of CRISPR and delete all negative reporting on gene-editing. Then we can learn to accept what we’re told by the mainstream and poof, there will be no unintended consequences.
Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? However, after 35 years of working as a reporter, I can tell you that editing out dissent has a way of coming around to bite the Ministry of Truth.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.
Image credit: The Conversation