NY Times’ Carl Zimmer: CRISPR gene editing vital but offers ethical challenges


[Editor’s Note: Carl Zimmer is a columnist at the New York Times, where his column “Matter” appears each week. He has written books, articles, and essays about the frontiers of biology and how scientists are making efforts to expand our understanding of life. He answered a series of questions before speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival.]

What is CRISPR and why is it important for the average American to know about it?

Right now CRISPR is a scientific tool, allowing scientists to learn new things about how genes work. But before long, CRISPR is going to make its way into everyday life…CRISPR will also probably be applied to medicine in the next decade.

What are the moral and ethical implications of researching genetic modification?

It is very easy to go overboard when thinking about the future of genetic modification. Some people will promise the moon and the stars. Other people will promise an dystopian apocalypse. I think everyone…needs to dig deep into these scenarios to separate the real potential benefits and risks from the hype.

Scientists generally abide by a 14-day rule when it comes to how long embryos are allowed to develop. Do you believe this should be adjusted for the sake of further research?

The 14-day rule was crucial to science. It created an agreement under which scientists could move forward and discover important facts about how embryos develop. But from the start, it was an arbitrary line…With more research, they could probably go beyond that limit soon.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Understanding the Genetics Revolution