If We Can Edit Genes from Butterflies, Can We Do the Same With Humans?

by Willg20 on September 18, 2017 - 11:20pm

Imagine if we can change our genes and be able to cure genetic diseases, wouldn't it be a major scientific advancement? The article that I read from News Activist ( https://www.newscientist.com/article/2147852-secrets-of-butterfly-wing-p... ) talks about how scientists have been able to change the painting genes from butterflies using CRISPR and that understanding how to change that specific gene can help turn on and off some human genes.

First of all, you must be wondering what CRISPR means. The full definition is in the article, but it basically means that it enables us to see how the different patterns evolve between species and within one species and that they all come from a common theme. Also, the gene responsible for the butterfly wing gene is called the WntA gene and that this gene is the mostly the one who is evolving to create the different types of butterflies. CRISPR was able to turn off this gene by targeting it specifically, but they had to deactivate the gene before the caterpillar was going to grow to become a butterfly.

The lead scientist Arnaud Martin shows that butterfly wings are made by patches of cells that develop to serve a specific objective. The same goes for humans. We have a brain that develop with precise patterns too. Looking at how these patterns develop in butterflies can help scientists determine how this research can be used to know how patterns in the human brain are developped. Down below you can see an image taken from the article that shows the difference between a normal butterfly and a butterfly affected by the technology of the CRISPR.

This can, in the end, help to remove genes that are of a nuisance for the human being and now "some researchers are experimenting with tweaking the genes of human embryos, with the ultimate goal of preventing genetic diseases". Go read the article! All of the specific details are there and can help you understand even better about the subject.

 

Wing patterns of a normal Sara Longwing butterfly (left) compared to a mutant butterfly generated with CRISPR (right)

Wing patterns of a normal Sara Longwing butterfly (left) compared to a mutant butterfly generated with CRISPR (right)

Comments

Hello Willg20,

You wrote a really good post and a very compelling one as well! I find it interesting how you started off your post with a question, it really grabbed my attention and made me think about your topic. The way you formulated your title as a question made it intriguing as your title raised my curiosity making me wonder if we can really perform gene editing on humans. In addition, I like how you gave a brief definition of CRISPR, giving the readers an insight of what it is and keeping it simple which allowed us to have more understanding about your topic. The way you linked human gene editing and butterfly gene editing was done smoothly. The comparison really helped me understand how scientist would be able to edit human genes by succeeding at editing butterfly genes which is an amazing discovery. The picture you added from the article is very fascinating and gives us a nice visual idea of the gene affected by the CRISPR. At the end of your post, you included the advantages that might occur with human gene editing that could possibly save many lives. This caught my attention as the medical field is always trying to improve their techniques to cure more diseases and the fact that gene editing could also open doors towards new cures is very eye catching.

Actually, I found this article which discusses gene editing as well and figured you might be interested! It talks about the risk that could occur if we decide to edit embryos as gene editing still isn’t a technique that scientist have fully mastered. It addresses the risk of “off-target effects” which basically changes other genes besides the one that were desired which could be harmful. Thus scientists suggest that gene editing should be performed when the benefits would be able to outweigh the risks. However, this technique could be allowed in the future if it is used properly and allowed by the general public.
If you’re interested in reading the article, here is the link: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2121264-human-genome-editing-should...

-Celia Cai