Last week, two developments in gene editing shifted this potent new technology from a possibility to more of a probability. Yet it’s likely that the news didn’t register with most people. Despite the revolutionary potential of a tool that may soon make it possible for Homo sapiens to manipulate DNA and to self-evolve – for better or for worse.The new technology goes by the funny-sounding name “Crispr-Cas9” – a method that has the power to cut and paste DNA, the basic code of life in humans and all other organisms, almost as simply as moving letters around on a word processor.
Researchers expect to use Crispr-Cas9 to fix or improve DNA sequences linked to diseases like Huntington’s and some cancers. The method could also be used to bump up a person’s smarts, height, or stamina, although not yet.“We have within our grasp the technology to change evolution,” said Paul Berg, a genetics pioneer from Stanford, about Crispr-tech. “This could change the course of biological life.”Discovered in 2012 by scientists in California and Sweden, Crispr-Cas9 moved closer to reality last Tuesday when the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) released a report about the ethics and the proper uses of Crispr-tech. The next day came a patent court ruling that decided who has the rights to commercially exploit some basic components of Crispr-Cas9.