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  • In 2011, scientists created glow-in-the-dark cats.

  • The researchers took a gene from glowing jellyfish and inserted it into the unfertilized eggs of house cats.

  • It was a neat trick, but they had a bigger goal in mind.

  • They also made the cats more likely to be resistant to a feline form of AIDS, by, again, manipulating their DNA.

  • And cats aren't that different than humans.

  • In fact, we share around 90% of our DNA with them.

  • So why can't we engineer humans in the same way?

  • Well, we canengineer ourselves to be resistant to life-threatening illnesses, that is.

  • In fact, one scientist claims that he's genetically engineered two babies using a revolutionary tool called CRISPR.

  • But what exactly is a CRISPR baby, anyway?

  • Would you like to be 6 feet tall or never bald?

  • The secret to traits like these lies in the 6 billion letters of your genetic code.

  • But there could be something else in there as well: mutations.

  • Genetic mutations are linked to at least 6,000 medical conditions from sickle cell anemia to Huntington's disease.

  • But what if you could make those mutations simply disappear?

  • That's where the gene-editing tool CRISPR comes in.

  • CRISPR is made from specialized proteins and other compounds found in certain bacteria.

  • Normally, these proteins protect the bacteria by destroying enemy invaders like viruses.

  • But the inventors of CRISPR figured out how to turn those proteins against genetic mutations and other genes linked to disease.

  • First, they give the proteins coordinates of the wanted gene.

  • Then, CRISPR runs a seek-and-destroy function.

  • After that, other molecules are dispatched to repair the gene with new, healthy DNA.

  • And just like that, you can edit the human genome.

  • But while the edits may be quick, their changes can last for centuries, especially if you're editing the DNA in an embryo.

  • Embryos start out with a single cell that eventually replicates into millions and then trillions more.

  • So if you alter that initial cell first, you're manipulating the ingredients for every cell that follows later in life.

  • And those same altered cells can be passed on from generation to generation.

  • That's one reason why most experiments on human embryos haven't left the lab.

  • That is, except for the work of Dr. He Jiankui.

  • He claims to have used CRISPR to target and knock out the CCR5 gene in human embryos, which is linked to HIV infection.

  • And then he did something that shocked the scientific community.

  • He implanted the embryos into several women, one of whom gave birth to genetically modified twins.

  • Resistance to HIV aside, most scientists say the procedure was too risky.

  • At least two studies suggest that edited cells might actually trigger cancer.

  • And another found that CRISPR can accidentally take aim at healthy DNA.

  • So while CRISPR could make us immune to disease, who knows what else we might get on the side?

In 2011, scientists created glow-in-the-dark cats.

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B2 US crispr gene dna genetically genetic genetically engineered

What Is A Genetically-Engineered CRISPR Baby?

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    Vivian Chen posted on 2019/04/16
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