CRISPR and CAS9 – Key to the cure for everything?

This is fascinating research: The biggest biotech discovery of the century is about to change medicine forever . Basically they have found a way to use the bodies naturally immune system to allow creative recoding of your DNA.

Fan of the Jason Bourne / Treadstone novels/films? Remember the plot of the last one – The Bourne Legacy? Well, the whole premise of the film is encapsulated in that above research. Sure, maybe they don’t have the knowledge – yet – for that level of ‘super soldier’, but they just did not have the delivery system for it. It is no longer a case of science fantasy in a thriller but actual, cutting edge fact.

Extracts from the above article :

They crafted molecules that could enter a microbe and precisely snip its DNA at a location of the researchers’ choosing. In January 2013, the scientists went one step further: They cut out a particular piece of DNA in human cells and replaced it with another one.

In the same month, separate teams of scientists at Harvard University and the Broad Institute reported similar success with the gene-editing tool.

Some scientists have repaired defective DNA in mice… Plant scientists have used CRISPR to edit genes in crops… Some researchers are trying to rewrite the genomes of elephants, with the ultimate goal of re-creating a woolly mammoth. Writing last year in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, Motoko Araki and Tetsuya Ishii of Hokkaido University in Japan predicted that doctors will be able to use CRISPR to alter the genes of human embryos “in the immediate future.”

If you’ve eaten yogurt or cheese, chances are you’ve eaten CRISPR-ized cells.

As a doctor, bioengineer or any related disciplines you’ll study this and see a hope for cures to Alzheimer’s, cancer, aging even.

As a fantasy fan, whether Jurassic park (which this stuff IS being used for!!!) or Anne McCaffreys dragons of Pern you can only look and sigh happily “oooh”.

As a horror fan, well, Here Be Monsters.

As a conspiracy theorist, you can bet your shirt and top 10 favourite sites and forums that the military are all over this. Rogue Trooper in the flesh? Yep, they’d do that. Racial targeting with a pandemic? Absolutely.

As an aging programmer with an interest in all the above, you see elegant potential for all ills, but perhaps not in our lifetime. But you also foresee formatting errors. You see it ‘does not compile’. And perhaps you remember Microsoft’s Bill Gates and their very public and embarrassing BSoD… You may envision any or all of these every time they tinker.

It’s not a great stretch of the imagination to see that within this technology the dystopia of films like Gattaca (1997) and Elysium (2013) being brought to reality. Similarly, the ‘super soldiers’ of comics, books, games and movies as diverse as 2000 AD’s Rogue Trooper, Warhammers’ Space Marines, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series and the (sometimes dire) Universal Soldier series (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgrem). Even Captain America, for Marvel fans. Then – and perhaps the most likely scenario – there’s the Dark Angel television series (Jessica Alba). That has it all. Super soldiers, genetic side-effects from splicing animal DNA into humans, and, in one episode, wiping out a Chinese community in Seattle to test a targeted virus.

Same old, same old, really. The rich get healthier – and richer. The rest, well they won’t be able to afford the designer medicines. Unless they really screw up a BSoD in genetics, then there’s no winners.

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