Understanding Gene Drives: Should We Use Genetic Engineering to Eliminate Disease?
We can...but should we?
What if tomorrow we could contain the Zika virus permanently, or even Lyme Disease, the West Nile virus, malaria—basically any vector-borne disease. Gene Drive technology could make this possible.
It involves synthesizing breeds of organisms that would reign dominantly in the wild, minimizing disease-spreading factions. While this is not the first time scientists have tampered with GMO species in the environment, this is the first time we will be able to do it with almost perfect efficiency. An action that (for some) echoes the expression “playing God” quite loudly.
For more information on Gene Drives, and how this process works, check out the video below:
Besides the question of bioethics, there’s questions regarding the price of it all, and there’s an overwhelming sense of uncertainty.
The greatest fear that arises from utilizing Gene Drives is that we are unaware of the effect of unleashing a modified organism into a natural ecosystem. Another is that the technology might get into the wrong hands—in other words, “bio-terrorists.”
Regardless, research on Gene Drives has proven successful in laboratory trials and many scientists, such as Anthony James, have agreed to the National Academy of the Sciences’ recommendations on the technology, which mandate extensive internal trials before reaching external communities.
A discussion on Gene Drive technology is imperative now more than ever. We are at the turn of the century, with a genomic revolution already underway—therefore we should work carefully today to ensure we know how we will be remembered tomorrow.