CRISPR-cas9 and Ethics, Update 3: Final Summary

I have finally completed the written portion of my literature review on the ethical implications of CRISPR-cas9 gene-editing technology.  I found the research to be extremely interesting overall, as the technology is incredibly powerful (and occasionally incredibly scary!).  In terms of the process, I experienced a lot of ups and downs.  I was initially terrified by the density of much of the literature on CRISPR, as I had not tried to go so in depth on any one particular topic before.  However, I now feel that I am better prepared to accomplish such a task in the future.  Additionally, at one point in my reading I found an article that essentially accomplished what I set out to do, which was frustrating.  However, I found a new purpose in tailoring the article to those not involved in the scientific community, which was a fun challenge.  It was difficult to remove myself from the academic style I had been reading and remember that even more simple concepts should be explained, or the big picture could be lost entirely.  So, without further ado, here is a general summary of what I found .  (I would recommend reading my first post, a general summary of the mechanism itself here, as I will not be going into as much detail in this one.)

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CRISPR and Ethics, Update 2: Planning the Review

For those just tuning in, my project this summer is to write a literature review concerning the ethical implications of CRISPR-cas9 gene-editing technology.   For the first part of my project I focused on understanding the mechanism of CRISPR itself, in order to have a strong knowledge base with which to approach the ethical aspects.  In brief, CRISPR is based on a naturally-occurring anti-viral system which exists in bacteria.  This system can be manipulated in order to delete or insert genes into the target strand.  In my recent work I began delve into what this means CRISPR is capable of, and I have had to redirect the final goal of my project.

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CRISPR-cas9 and Ethics, Update One: The Mechanism

The first phase of constructing my literature review was to obtain a solid foundation of knowledge regarding the technology of clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR) cas9 itself.  This information is necessary in order to accurately assess ethical concerns moving forward.  Throughout my reading, I realized there are two levels to understanding CRISPR-cas9.  The first is how it operates as a biological mechanism in nature, and the second is how this mechanism has been adapted into a functional tool.

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Ethical Implications of CRISPR-cas9 Gene-Editing Technology

Gene-editing is a process within genetic engineering through which scientists and researchers can alter, add, and even remove the DNA of a living organism.  On the cutting-edge of this field is a technology known as CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is a gene editing method derived from a biological process in bacteria, and cas-9 is the associated enzyme of the system whose role is to cut the DNA.  This tool is extremely powerful, so there are naturally many ethical implications to consider, especially with the rate at which technology is advancing.  The goal of this research is to investigate those implications and issues and to present them in a way that is understandable to the general public.  This includes potential new scientists in the field and policy makers, as all should be aware of what technology is capable of, despite its complexities.  This information will be communicated through a literature review.  The review will be created through a three-part process.  First, the mechanism of CRISPR-cas9 itself will be investigated, then the ethics of science, including previous innovations and their long term affects, will be reviewed.  Lastly, these two components will be synthesized into a cohesive guide to what the advanced gene-editing of CRISPR-cas9 could mean ethically to individuals and society as a whole.