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15th Aug 18

Future Now

Future medicine: gene editing

15th Aug 18

Ian Parsons
By Ian Parsons45 Followers

Will humans really live to be 200 years old? Assuming the answer is yes, what are the technologies or discoveries that will make this possible? And are we headed for a dystopian future in which superhumans control the world?

We don’t pretend we can predict the future here. We’ll leave that to octopuses, who have learnt the hard way that prophets are never welcomed in their hometown. But some recent developments in genetics, and in particular, genetic engineering, point to a future where the definition of humanity will be challenged.

Gene therapy is the delivery of genetic material into a patient’s body to treat disease. Early pioneers focused on diseases that are affected by single genes, such as sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. But in the last few years, a powerful new tool called CRISPR has empowered scientists to be able to make massive changes to the DNA of all kinds of organisms, including humans.

There is a really long and complicated explanation for what CRISPR is and does, but the simplest way to describe it is as a cut-and-paste tool for DNA. Essentially we figured out how to use a certain bacteria to edit out parts of the DN...

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