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  • Sophie: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Sophie.

  • Neil: And I'm Neil. I was watching the news the other day, Sophie.

  • Sophie: Learn anything interesting?

  • Neil: Yes, actually. UK scientists have been authorised by the government to genetically

  • modify human embryos for research.

  • What they can't do though is implant modified embryos into women.

  • They talked a lot about gene editing.

  • Sophie: Can you explain to us what gene editing is?

  • Neil: Mmm... I think this means there are these letters in a code

  • A-B-C something... I can't remember exactly...

  • Sophie: Gene editing is the ability to manipulateor controlDNA.

  • And in case you didn't know, DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid

  • this is a substance in the cells of animals and plants that contains genetic information.

  • And a gene is part of the DNA in the cell that controls the physical development

  • and behaviour of a plant or animal and is passed on from its parents.

  • Neil: Phew! Thanks for the science lesson, Sophie.

  • Sophie: You're welcome. Now here's a question for you,

  • Which science fiction film anticipates gene editing in a dystopian society

  • where humans are genetically engineered? Is it... a) Robocop

  • b) Gattaca or c) Blade Runner

  • Neil: Mmm... I don't really understand the question but I'm going to say c) Blade Runner.

  • What's dystopian?

  • Sophie: Dystopian means an imaginary society where people are unhappy and afraid.

  • Well, moving on, let's listen to BBC journalist Fergus Walsh talking about how gene editing works.

  • Fergus Walsh: Think of gene editing as a molecular sat nav.

  • It scans the DNA searching for the error.

  • Then it uses molecular scissors to snip through both strands, which switches off the faulty gene.

  • Or it can repair the code by inserting a healthy copy of the gene.

  • These techniques raise the prospect of treating ... even curingsome genetic diseases

  • and it's not science fiction.

  • Sophie: So DNA is a set of instructions for how our bodies work

  • written using a chemical code of four letters – A, T, C, G.

  • But sometimes the code contains mistakes.

  • Neil: Yes. You find spelling mistakes by scanningor searchingthrough the DNA.

  • Then you snipor cut outthe mistake or faulty gene from the code using molecular scissors.

  • Faulty by the way, means something that isn't working properly ... like the faulty brakes on my bike.

  • Sophie: That sounds really dangerous, Neil!

  • Neil: Yeah, but I'm more worried about my faulty genes.

  • I might have all sorts of genetic mistakes inside me.

  • Sophie: That wouldn't surprise me.

  • But you've actually touched on a serious point.

  • Latest research suggests all our bodies do contain genetic mistakes,

  • some of which could cause disease.

  • And as reporter Fergus Walsh said at the end of the clip,

  • gene editing could be important for treating or even curing inherited genetic diseases.

  • For patients with blood, immune, muscle or skin disorders

  • it offers the possibility that their faulty cells could be removed,

  • or changed in the lab, and then put back.

  • Neil: That sounds amazing. But is there a catch?

  • Sophie: And that means a problem or drawback.

  • Yes. Some people think that if editing the genes of a human embryo is allowed for curing disease,

  • this will lead to editing the genes of embryos for reasons other than health.

  • Let's listen to Marcy Darnovsky,

  • executive director of the Centre for Genetics and Society in California talking about her concerns.

  • Marcy Darnovsky: It's too risky, we don't need it, there are other ways to have healthy children,

  • and it would open the doorpossiblyto a world of genetic haves and have nots.

  • We don't need more inequality, we don't need more discrimination in the world.

  • Neil: An embryo by the way is an animal or human starting to develop inside its mother.

  • Marcy Darnovsky is against gene editing because it may be used to create designer babies

  • or babies whose genes have been selected to have certain desirable characteristics.

  • Sophie: She says it may open the door

  • or make it possible – a situation where

  • embryos are genetically enhanced or improved ... to be more intelligent or physically stronger, for example.

  • Neil: And this will lead to more discrimination in the world

  • which means treating some people less fairly than others.

  • Sophie: which is something that science fiction has been predicting for many years.

  • It's that dystopian society we were discussing earlier, Neil!

  • Which science fiction film anticipates gene editing in a dystopian society

  • where humans are genetically engineered?

  • Is it... a) Robocop b) Gattaca or c) Blade Runner?

  • Neil: And I said c) Blade Runner.

  • Sophie: Sorry, Neil! It was b) Gattaca.

  • This 1997 sci-fi film centres on the character Vincent Freeman,

  • who wasn't genetically engineered, but is able to buy the genetic identity of another man

  • in order to pursue his dream of travelling into space.

  • The film's title uses the letters G, A, T and C, which are the four chemical codes making up DNA.

  • Now here are today's words:

  • gene editing

  • manipulate

  • DNA

  • gene

  • dystopian

  • scanning

  • snip

  • faulty

  • catch

  • embryo

  • designer babies

  • open the door

  • enhanced

  • discrimination

  • Neil: Well, that's the end of today's 6 Minute English.

  • Please do join us again soon!

  • Both: Bye.

Sophie: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Sophie.

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B1 UK sophie gene editing faulty dystopian dna

BBC 6 Minute English February 25, 2016 - It's all in the genes

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    Adam Huang posted on 2016/02/27
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