DNA makes up the genetic code. Human being has approximately twenty thousand genes, which are bundled into 23 pairs of chromosomes. Almost every cell of our body has a nucleus made up of all these genes. Jointly coiled up these genes to form a nucleus. It is surprising that only 1.5% of our genetic code is made up of genes. Another 10% genetic code controls their activities, like at the right time, the right cells do their work through stimulating or deactivating genes. The remaining DNA in our body is apparently useless.
Altering genetic code which is also termed as a gene editing can be done by rewriting DNA. Researchers can disable the faulty gene to correct detrimental genetic mutation and alter the specific gene activity. This gene editing process has applied to plant, animals and human for alter the genetic sequence and reduce the risk of diseases.
There are thousands of genetic disorders identified which are passed on from one generation to another generation. Genetic disorders are not being rare. It has found that one in 25 babies born with a genetic disorder. Some common genetic disorders are sickle cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis. The main objective of altering genetic code is to reduce the risk of inherited genetic disorders.
Moreover, medical researchers also found a promising treatment measure for treating cancer, HIV through gene editing. Cancer or HIV affected individuals get benefited through gene editing by modifying the immune functioning of the body. Modification of immune functioning helps to fight against cancer and also develops resistance against HIV infection.
The altering genetic code also repairs defective genes in human embryos to prevent inherited serious genetic disorders. But the fixing of the gene in embryo structure is a controversial subject, as the medical and ethical committee has a doubt that changes of a gene can negatively affect future generation by altering their egg or sperm cells.
The altering genetic code in a human being has a big challenge, as it is difficult to select the right cell. Scientists conducted this through injecting some harmless virus which targets the specific gene. However, nowadays, Crispr-Cas9 molecules are injected through fatty nanoparticles to the embryonic pores to modulate the genetic molecules.
Medical science gives huge effort to achieve the goal of correcting the faulty genes in both children and adults. But till now very limited studies have proven that gene editing can able to fix dangerous embryonic mutations too.
In 2017, the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine gave the statement that cautious implementation of gene modulation in human embryos could able to prevent the most serious diseases, but yet now only one study conducted for safety analysis. It has found that any gene editing in the embryo will affect the cellular structure of the individual and will be delivered to the next generation of that individual.
Therefore, it is essential to avoid harmful mistakes and adverse effects.
Gene editing has a distant prospect, which may apply to create designer babies, which also termed as human embryo engineering. The creation of designer babies is applied for a social reason, but not for a medical cause, such as to generate a more intelligent or taller person. Engineering human embryos involve thousands of unknown genetic traits. In 2017, Chinese researchers had used base editing, in which the letters of the genetic code changed through chemical reactions and mend genetic mutations that cause beta thalassemia in human embryos.
Therefore, both the pros and cons are present in altering the genetic code, but the right application can help to prevent inherited genetic disorders.