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CRISPR: The end of Malaria and Zika and Mosquitoes

 
 
Reply Thu 12 May, 2016 07:18 pm
The CRISPR Gene Editing technology is here. We can now edit specific genes, insert them into the Germ Line where they will be inherited by future generations.

Using this technique we could eliminate Malaria forever, or Zika, or the Mosquitoes themselves. Forever. Gone.

Should we do it?

Quote:
A controversial genetic technology able to wipe out the mosquito carrying the Zika virus will be available within months, scientists say.

The technology, called a “gene drive,” was demonstrated only last year in yeast cells, fruit flies, and a species of mosquito that transmits malaria. It uses the gene-snipping technology CRISPR to force a genetic change to spread through a population as it reproduces.
Three U.S. labs that handle mosquitoes, two in California and one in Virginia, say they are already working toward a gene drive for Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito blamed for spreading Zika. If deployed, the technology could theoretically drive the species to extinction.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 3,197 • Replies: 36
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 May, 2016 07:21 pm
@rosborne979,
Here's some background reading. A quick Google on CRISPR and Mosquitoes will turn up a lot of these links in case you want more viewpoints?

MIT Technology Review: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600689/we-have-the-technology-to-destroy-all-zika-mosquitoes/

Opinion Piece: http://biologywriter.com/can-crispr-eliminate-malaria/
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 May, 2016 07:34 pm
And by the way, if anyone is reading this and wondering if you could use CRISPR to eliminate genetic diseases in humans... the answer is a big fat pregnant YES.

And could new genetic traits be introduced into the human population such that they could flow into the population... again the answer is yes, and it's not even very difficult, which means that someone somewhere, and probably lots of someone's in lots of places, will inevitably do it.

Most of us only live long enough to see a few generations go by, so humanity won't change much in our lifetime, but it seems inevitable that it will change dramatically going forward. The CRISPR genie is loose and it can't be put back in the bottle.

And for organisms with short lifespans, like yeast and bacteria, we could see complete alterations to the point where new species arise and old ones become extinct. Human designed species.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 01:25 am
WWMSS?

(*What would Mary Shelley say?)
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 04:47 am
In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, in the first novel, Red Mars, the original colonists are scientists and engineers. Three of them--Vladimir Teneev, Marina Tokareva and Ursula Kohl--come up with a longevity treatment. Basically, one is "infected" with their own DNA, driven into the cells with plasmids containing their DNA. It has the effect of repairing transcription errors and "turning on" genes which have been turned off by the aging process. This has implications for such a scenario leaving the realm of fiction and entering the realm of practical science.

It is interesting because of the social implications. Once the existence of the "treatment" is known on Earth, all hell breaks loose. The "southern club," the poor but resource-rich nations south of North America and Europe are filled with people unable to afford the treatment, and it eventually sparks wars in populations who feel they have nothing to lose. In the industrialized nations, employers use the treatment as an incentive in hiring, and eventually, governments begin offering the treatment as a civil right to their people.

Robinson is a left-wing ideologue just as Heinlein is a right-wing ideologue, but his narrative in intriguing insofar as the longevity treatment is concerned. Naturally, capitalists attempt to control the sale of the longevity treatment for their own profit. The nations of the southern club make war on corporations from the north, and those capitalists flee to the protection of the G-11 nations (as Robinson imagines it in the late 21st century). People in the southern club nations are willing to go so far as launching human wave attacks on their capitalist enemies, thinking they haven't much to lose if they can't get the treatments anyway. Some fanatical religious leaders condemn the treatments as the work of Satan, and their followers join in the wars to attack the heretics.

None of that is to say that that is how it would work out in real life. But the implications are chilling--mankind divided into the mortals and the immortals, the division based on who can afford the treatments, and who cannot.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 05:04 am
@rosborne979,
It isnt that "should we use it"? Its a little trick that has already been employed by archeae and microorganisms . Im more interested in how it seems to validate the entire mechanisms of evolution at prokaryotic levels in a fashion that was proposed(based upon observation of these "palindromic sequences" by Lynn Margulis 40 years ago.

Its a means that, weve discovered has allowed the cas enzymes be transferred and retained in "exchange packages" among various kinds of extromophilic bacteria and phages (even while the original species have disappeared over , what, thousands of years?)

I need to keep reading. J Doudna gave a TED talk about this editing that was discovered in nature and quickly adapted by "design"


(PS, I got a kick from one of our posters who opined that this allowed us to read what "God's plans were all about as he created life"). Pwrhaps he should red more of what Margulis said
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 11:07 am
@Setanta,
The movie Gattaca also dealt with some of these issues as well.
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 11:17 am
@farmerman,
I'm somewhat familiar with the methodology involved, Cas9 Proteins and such and the fact that the entire process was first recognized in bacteria which were using it to defend themselves from viruses.

It's also interesting that this technology is so cheap and relatively easy to do. Home CRISPR kits are already available (if you don't mind test tubes in your kitchen). http://www.gizmag.com/home-crispr-gene-editing-kit/40362/

A bit of video summary:

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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 11:25 am
A bit more video tutorial on how this works:
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 11:36 am
The CRISPR BioTechnology has come on fast, so I wasn't sure how many people knew about it which is why I started the discussion.

Putting aside the technical aspects of how CRISPR works for a moment, I find that the possibilities implied by this technology lead to huge areas of discussion. First we have the "What is possible" line of discussion in which we quickly see that the world is about to change radically from a BioTechnology front. Then we have the ethical dilemmas implicit in these changes.

For example, "Should we make Mosquitoes go extinct?"

The female Anopheles Mosquito is arguably the most deadly animal on the planet (with respect to humans), but what would happen if we eliminated all mosquitoes from the Biosphere? Sure we could stop Malaria, but would we also create a cascade of damage in the species that eat mosquitoes, or species which are using the mosquitoes for other things we don't know about?
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:10 pm
@rosborne979,
bioethics is still in the paleocene. We cannot even administrate or control GMO's and theres no way to even open a discussion among the potential end recipients (and customers) of the ethics of GMO's in the environment.

gene editing for higher organisms has no controls anywhere. We are pretty at the mercy of bullshit marketing. (Marketers will always post the benefits and never bother us with downsides).
Having said that, however, we should study the hell out of disease control via the editing and CAs enzymes
Since this process ,in nature is an age old tool exclusively used by virus, archaea , bacteria, and phages, we should know that , evolutionarily, most diseases progress via natural "editing" towards a less lethal form. (Killing ones host has negative affects on the virus's weekend).
So, as far as editing to control diseases are concerned, we will merely be speeding up evolution's "apparent direction".
yes , its new, I recall seeing first articles on CRISPR nd cas 9n) enzymes in Genomics and then Nature, less than 5 years ago(even though the discoverers were puzzling the source" iap gene spacers". since the early 1990's. the breakthrough in understanding came almost 2 decades later. (I recall the introduction of "knock out genes" in the late 80;s and the clamor that caused.


I do worry about the bioethics thing. SCientists cant all be held in one pen. Look at what happened with "cloning ", wed created some damned monsters , (nothing of any consequence but we probably wont ever see the real monstrosities).

Our technologies have always seemed to outstrip our abilities to demand their ethical use.

0 Replies
 
TomTomBinks
 
  0  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:11 pm
@rosborne979,
I don't know anything at all about genetics, so humor me for a moment. Could this technology be used to alter our genes to make us immune to malaria and zika? If so, I think this is the wiser path. Let this be our new weapon in the biological arms race against disease. Causing the extinction of the mosquito or even the viruses that cause the disease is probably a big mistake. We don't understand how it all fits together, so making drastic changes is just asking for trouble. That said, I don't expect that the ethical choice will be made. When has mankind ever acted ethically? This technology will be used to further the interests of those that control it, and to hell with the consequences.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:13 pm
Perhaps keep mosquitoes, but make them less harmful -
At this point I would expect to go that way. Too drastic a change would do more harm than good, wouldn't it?
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:16 pm
@TomTomBinks,
actually, I think ros was acting more as an intolocutor and seeking our input of bioethics. Obviously, rendering malaria less virulent would involve editing the Plasmodium (sp) bacteria, not people OR mosquitoes.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:40 pm
@TomTomBinks,
TomTomBinks wrote:
I don't know anything at all about genetics, so humor me for a moment. Could this technology be used to alter our genes to make us immune to malaria and zika?

Basically, Yes. But there are a couple of things to consider with that approach. The first thing is that it's harder to push a genetic change into a complex organism once they are fully grown than it is to alter a single cell in a germ line and have it grow into a person. So, oddly, it's harder to change/save people who are already fully grown than it is to alter the embryo which would result in an individual who could pass on the trait (immunity).

Think about that. It's easier to alter an embryo such that the change will be passed down to all its offspring, than it is to change a single grown individual and not have it be passed down.

The next challenge is that the more complex the change you need to make to the organism, the harder it is to identify exactly what you need to change.

TomTomBinks wrote:
Causing the extinction of the mosquito or even the viruses that cause the disease is probably a big mistake. We don't understand how it all fits together, so making drastic changes is just asking for trouble.

Yes, that's the core risk.

TomTomBinks wrote:
That said, I don't expect that the ethical choice will be made. When has mankind ever acted ethically? This technology will be used to further the interests of those that control it, and to hell with the consequences.

Probably true. Especially since there is no way to effectively restrict access to the technology. So even if they create laws to govern ethical behavior there will always be people who simply ignore those laws. Maybe parents who want to save their baby from Tay-Sacs Disease or some other genetic anomaly. But just as easily there could be parents who want to make their babies taller, or smarter, or have cats eyes. Once such babies were born, they would live normal lives and then have kids of their own and pass on those traits. Whole new races of humans could be created at will.

0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:45 pm
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:
actually, I think ros was acting more as an intolocutor and seeking our input of bioethics. Obviously, rendering malaria less virulent would involve editing the Plasmodium (sp) bacteria, not people OR mosquitoes.

I was hoping for a discuss of both bioethics as well as a general exploration of what we should prepare ourselves for with the advent of this technology.

As I noted in my previous post, even if we come up with a bunch of bioethic rules and regulations, someone is going to ignore them. So whatever this technology is capable of producing is almost certain to get out there. I feel the same way about this technology as I would if someone said that building nuclear bombs was simple and that fissionable uranium was as common as table salt.
ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 12:54 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
Sure we could stop Malaria, but would we also create a cascade of damage in the species that eat mosquitoes, or species which are using the mosquitoes for other things we don't know about?


lots of coverage on CBC news and science programs with variants of your question/s

neutralizing mosquitoes vs eliminating them would be my preference

it's worked fairly well in the management of rabies and distemper in raccoons and foxes locally (neutralizing dangers, not CRISPR)
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TomTomBinks
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 May, 2016 09:36 pm
@rosborne979,
Farmers will want better crops and livestock. The military will want better soldiers. Corporations will want better workers. Parents will want better children. Government agencies will want disease control. Undoubtedly some of these various interests will conflict with one another and/or have unintended consequences. I think it will be a mess. I can imagine wonderful possibilities, but I still think it will be a mess.
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Miller
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 16 May, 2016 07:56 am
@rosborne979,
Just a few points.

First of all, in humans, whether or not this technique can "cure disease" is highly questionable. For example, for this technique to actually "cure" cancer, one would have to know each and every one of the steps, leading up to a so-called cancer cell. This info is not available today and may not be available for a very long time ( if ever).

Knowing the steps in this technique, I question the precise sensitivity and specificity for application in humans, for most diseases. For example,since so little is known about the origin of autism in humans, the technique would be of limited value until much more is known about the neuro-biochemistry,cell and molecular biology of neurons .

Lastly but not related ( to the above), it's well known that Afro-Americans ( and Africans) who have the sickle cell gene are resistant to the development of malaria. This being the case, what will happen to this gene ( sickle cell) in future generations of humans ( of African descent)?

How much is known about the gene(s) for Sickle Cell disease and the protection it affords humans against malaria?
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Mon 16 May, 2016 08:13 am
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

Just a few points.

First of all, in humans, whether or not this technique can "cure disease" is highly questionable.

Cancer isn't the only disease out there of course, and most of the discussions I've heard on this focus on correcting genetic diseases, not cancer. That doesn't mean that this technique might not eventually be used in some form against cancer, but it would probably not be the easiest target to start with.
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