Gene editing is a technology that allows for the deletion or addition of specific parts of DNA. Editing using gene scissors makes it possible to approach the treatment of genetic diseases, which account for many human diseases. Moreover, this technology can increase agricultural production and treat animal genetic diseases and even human cancer.
Gene editing differs from genetic modification techniques used in foods (GMO) already distributed worldwide. GM technology creates a modified biological gene by injecting genes from other organisms into it. However, gene editing technology enables ‘editing,’ which can select, change, or add specific parts of a gene using CRISPR, a type of genetic scissors.
In 2021, Japan developed tomatoes with four to five times more ‘GABA’ content effective for brain soothing and hypertension than regular tomatoes from gene editing technology. In 2023, the United Kingdom also developed ‘super wheat’ that contains lower levels of an amino acid called ‘asparagine’ than regular wheat. The toast made with super wheat produces fewer carcinogens than ordinary, even if it burns.
This magic of gene editing does not happen only in plants. In 2019, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital corrected genes associated with hearing loss in mice using gene editing technology. In Korea in 2022, this technology was used to treat genetic diseases in retrievers for the first time worldwide through joint research by various institutions, including the Division of Animal & Dairy Science of Chungnam National University.
Gene editing technology allows treatment’s therapeutic effects to be limited to individual patients. The progress of this technology can imagine a world in which people select and edit their DNA. However, gene editing for humans is currently strictly restricted. In other words, gene editing does not affect the next generation.
According to the On Human Gene Editing International Summit Statement published in 2015, gene editing with possible heredity is strictly prohibited for the following reasons: First, this technology can cause a wide range of environmental changes. Next, this technology can introduce social inequality. Finally, this technology can intentionally affect human evolution.
In addition, people are concerned about ecosystem destruction, ethical issues, and controversial side effects of gene editing. However, gene technology is the truth that certainly benefits human life, as GMO food and animal genetic disease treatments will benefit human life. Can the uncertain hope of gene technology be the salvation of humankind?