MPR News with Kerri Miller

Why CRISPR gene editing could be the future of medicine

July 6, 2021

Last week, researchers announced they successfully used CRISPR injected directly into the bloodstream to treat a genetic disease. It’s being hailed as a major milestone for patients, and heralds the day when CRISPR — an innovative gene-editing technique that allows for precise changes to DNA — is used to treat other genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and cancer.

CRISPR works like a pair of genetic scissors. If researchers can identify a genetic defect inside a living cell, they can use CRISPR to cut that spot and either delete, repair or replace the affected gene.

But that same power has the potential for harm. In 2019, a Chinese doctor ended up in prison after he used CRISPR to create the world’s first gene-edited babies. Bioethicists warn that CRISPR should be used cautiously, lest scientists accidentally transform the human race.

Tuesday, host Kerri Miller spoke with one of the pioneers of CRISPR and a bioethicist who specializes in the ethics of genetic modification.

Guests:

  • Alexis Komor is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and the lead researcher at the Komor Lab.

  • Jeffrey Kahn is the Andreas C. Dracopoulos director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and a professor of bioethics and public policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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