• Question: How soon in the future do you think (if at all) that peole may be given the opinion to change their genes concerning things like eye colour? If never, why not?

    Asked by leilaxmas18 to Heather, Gemma, Ed, Aoife, Alice on 28 Dec 2018.
    • Photo: Edward Morrison

      Edward Morrison answered on 28 Dec 2018:

      it’s already possible and may have happened this year. One scientist claims to have used a gene editing technique called CRISPR to edit the genome of embryos and use them in a pregnancy of twins. I am not sure if this has been confirmed but the Chinese scientist responsible is under intense scrutiny.

      Read more here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07607-3

      There are many issues around this – is it safe? Is it ethical? Either way, it’s not the future. It’s the present.

    • Photo: Gemma Chandratillake

      Gemma Chandratillake answered on 3 Jan 2019: last edited 3 Jan 2019 9:22 pm

      We can technically do this now, both for an entire person (editing an embryo) or in a particular tissue in a grown person (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/boy-rare-disease-gets-new-skin-thanks-gene-corrected-stem-cells).
      If we can technically do it, and there are no universal regulations to prevent us doing it (which there aren’t), this is likely going on, or will be very soon. The limiting factors are our knowledge about the genetics of particular traits and, probably more importantly, the desirability to undergo the particular procedures i.e. the risk vs reward ratios. Would you want to be the first person to try to undergo “gene-therapy” for eye colour and risk blindness or would a coloured contact lens be a better solution? The question is very different if you have a serious life-limiting disease as in the case above though.