Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Last - I can only hope

A picture above my desk called, “The Last,” has a dual meaning for me. First off, I love the lithograph because it is so well done. To me it reflects the dying off of the American Indian culture. The second meaning is much more personal. I hope and pray I am the last male in my mother’s family with Kennedy’s Disease.

A NewYork Times article written by Pam Belluck reports on a recent study and potential milestone in genetic engineering. Nature,the International Weekly Journal of Science published the study this week. A portion of the article is shown below. Follow the links above to read the entire article and the study.

In Breakthrough, Scientists Edit a Dangerous Mutation From Genes in Human Embryos

“”Scientists for the first time have successfully edited genes in human embryos to repair a common and serious disease-causing mutation, producing apparently healthy embryos, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The research marks a major milestone and, while a long way from clinical use, it raises the prospect that gene editing may one day protect babies from a variety of hereditary conditions.

But the achievement is also an example of human genetic engineering, once feared and unthinkable, and is sure to renew ethical concerns that some might try to design babies with certain traits, like greater intelligence or athleticism.

Scientists have long feared the unforeseen medical consequences of making inherited changes to human DNA. The cultural implications may be just as disturbing: Some experts have warned that unregulated genetic engineering may lead to a new form of eugenics, in which people with means pay to have children with enhanced traits even as those with disabilities are devalued. …”

“… Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University, with colleagues in California, China and South Korea, reported that they repaired dozens of embryos, fixing a mutation that causes a common heart condition that can lead to sudden death later in life.

If embryos with the repaired mutation were allowed to develop into babies, they would not only be disease-free but also would not transmit the disease to descendants.

The researchers averted two important safety problems: They produced embryos in which all cells — not just some — were mutation-free, and they avoided creating unwanted extra mutations.

“It feels a bit like a ‘one small step for (hu)mans, one giant leap for (hu)mankind’ moment,” Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist who helped discover the gene-editing method used, called CRISPR-Cas9, said in an email. …”

"Desistance" is my current story I am in the final stages of editing. It is a Sci-Fi that takes place sixty years in the future. One of the storylines is the development of almost super-humans whose DNA has been edited to remove most of the known diseases. Perhaps it won’t be Sci-Fi after all.

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