Gene Editing Technology and Ethical Issues

Gene Editing Technology and Ethical Issues

Barbara Jane Holland (Brooklyn Public Library, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3479-3.ch136

Abstract

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology has emerged as a powerful technology for genome editing and is now widely used in basic biomedical research to explore gene function. More recently, this technology has been increasingly applied to the study or treatment of human diseases. CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing has also been applied in immunology-focused applications such as the targeting of C-C chemokine receptor type 5, the programmed death 1 gene and the creation of chimeric antigen receptors in T cells for purposes such as the treatment of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or promoting anti-tumor immunotherapy. Furthermore, scientist recently suggest through their study that CRISPR may not work for everyone. This paper will review gene editing technology and its ethical concerns.
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Background

Five years ago University of California, Berkeley, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, and colleagues unveiled the gene-editing tool CRISPR (Science 2012). Doudna's lab, in fact, was engaged in a patent fight with the Harvard- and MIT-affiliated Broad Institute.

The patent case turns on the question of which researchers at the two institutions conceived of the most important CRISPR applications first. UC says it's a team at its Berkeley lab headed by Jennifer Doudna, with the collaboration of Emmanuelle Charpentier, now of Germany's Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. Broad's claim is based on the work of its researcher Feng Zhang.

The patent office changed its rules to a “first-to-file” basis from the old “first-to-invent,” in 2013, making the U.S. the last major country to do so. The idea was to end disputes that turned on minute interpretations of lab records or personal notes, with costs that arguably disadvantaged small inventors.

Last February 2017, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that although a team led by UC Berkeley structural biologist Jennifer Doudna had first laid claim to the use of CRISPR to cut DNA in a test tube, the use of the method on human cells by molecular biologist Feng Zhang’s team at the Broad was still an advance.

However, a decision from the European Patent Office (EPO) in January 2018 revoked the patent from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University because the Broad did not meet EPO requirements to establish that its researchers were the first to use CRISPR in eukaryotes. The patent granted to the Broad for fundamental aspects of the technology is one of several of its patents facing opposition in Europe.

Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism's DNA. These technologies can add, alter, or genetic material at particular locations in the genome. Several approaches to genome editing have been developed. Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell's own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or altering the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customized DNA sequence.

Genome editing is of great interest in the prevention and treatment of human diseases. It is being explored in research on a wide variety of diseases. It also holds promise for the treatment and prevention of a more complex disease, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Figure 1.

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Key Terms in this Chapter

CRISPR/Cas9-CRISPR-Cas Systems: Prokaryotic immune systems that confer resistance to foreign genetic elements such as plasmids and phages. CRISPR-Cas systems have been exploited for targeted genome editing.

Germline Editing: Human germline engineering is the process by which the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable.

Human Germline Engineering: The process by which the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable.

Mosaicism: A condition in which cells within the same person have a different genetic makeup.

Ethical Technology: Tends to focus on the evaluation of emerging technologies and what might be problematic.

Genome Editing: Genome editing or genome editing with engineered nucleases (GEEN) is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome of a living organism using engineered nucleases, or “molecular scissors.

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