Newsletter #12 - CRISPR, No It's Not a Breakfast Cereal

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time we determined that while naturally destructive, humanity is the Earth’s best attempt at generating an immune-like system to protect itself from outside threats [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 11 - EARTH'S IMMUNE SYSTEM]. Today, I’d like to discuss a recent usage of CRISPR in Australia to make mice infertile.

If you haven’t heard of CRISPR, you haven’t been paying attention to science in the last few years. It’s a tool—or more accurately a protein (I’m simplifying this)—that allows scientists to manipulate DNA by snipping genes and inserting new strands of data. Its discovery has opened the door to genetic engineering, and I cannot overstate its significance to mankind.

In Australia, CRISPR was recently used to make the invasive mice infertile. They edits the genes of the mice so that after a generation they can no longer reproduce, and then release that trait out into the wild to cull the population. Considering humans are usually responsible for introducing the invasive species to places, it only seems right that we use our scientific knowledge to reset the clock on the ecosystems we impact.

Many people are not surprisingly super against the use of CRISPR of things like this. They see it as playing god, or simply point out that humans cannot possibly predict what will happen when we start introducing human selected traits into the natural balance of the world. Twenty years ago in New Zealand, someone illegally released a rabbit killing virus on the unwanted rabbit population. The virus was not related to CRISPR in any way, but it was released for the same reasons. It’s called Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), and it initially killed the rabbits, but then the remaining population began to gain immunity towards the strain used. It basically created a ‘superbug’ version of the rabbit with a better immune system than before. When interspecies viral warfare goes wrong…

Several Chinese biophysicists were arrested and given three years behind bars for illegally using CRISPR on human embryos and creating the first genetically modified babies. They irresponsibly modified the babies genes to make them less susceptible to HIV, which the father had. We may think we know what happens when we edit certain genes, and we may think we know the chances (not 100%) of a successful edit, but there were a ton of risks involved here that outweighed the chances of the babies contracting HIV from the father’s genetics. The babies didn’t deserve to be guinea pigs, but that is what they were used for. The scientists should have received more time, but at least they were banned from practicing in their field again.

We will just have to hope that they don’t decide to break some more rules and start making human-animal hybrids. The only thing separating us from walruses is our DNA. Elon Tusk could be a reality one day, given a mad enough mind.  Just imagine the future possibilities of combining genetic engineering with artificial intelligence.  CRISPR and proteins similar to it are really the key to unlocking all genetic knowledge.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

Freebie: Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated - A Fantasy Horror Series

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Wrought by Fire
Ashen Sky
Howls on the Wind
Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated
Into the Beyond - Part 2: Far From Human
Into the Beyond - Part 3: Fires of Heaven

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