CRISPR and schizophrenia

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna – awarded the Nobel Prize for work on CRISPR

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspersed short palidromic repeats. The key fact about CRISPR is that CRISPR makes gene editing very easy to do. CAS9, which is an enzyme that makes double stranded breaks in DNA, guided by a guide RNA can cut out undesired DNA and then insert desired DNA at any give location in the genome with the DNA strand then put back together via homologous repair. There are difficulties in off target edits with CRISPR but I will not go into that.

How helpful will CRISPR be to schizophrenia?. By and large CRISPR will be no help at all. There are a few rare high impact alleles in schizophrenia that could be edited out but in the vast majority of cases a single gene edit would not even be noticeable. Ten edits would not be noticeable. A hundred edits would hardly be noticeable. And what is more schizophrenia is associated with common alleles which presumably, as evidenced by being common, serve very useful functions.

A lot of polygenetic diseases would be as difficult to gene edit out of existence as schizophrenia would be. The same deal applies to beneficial polygenetic traits. Gene editing for beneficial polygenetic traits would demand way too much gene editing where outcomes would be highly uncertain and could very easily be disastrous . Attempting to gene edit humans genomes to eradicate polygenetic illness or to drive beneficial polygenetic traits is not only immoral but also an error.

A lot of good can be done with edits of single genetic loci. With humans CRISPR should stick to editing single loci where the edited genetic loci has a high impact on an illness or trait.. George Church doing massive edits on elephant DNA could be allowed but humans should be off limits is terms of massive gene edits.

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