• Question: What is your opinion on crispr?

    Asked by Sum-Ting-Wong to Gavin, Karen, Mark, Michel, Roisin on 4 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Karen

      Karen answered on 4 Nov 2016:

      To be honest I don’t know a huge amount about them. I know they are repeated genetic sequences that bacteria use to protect themselves from phages (viruses that infect vacteria) thus giving them an acquired immunity.
      They are being touted as the new way of modifying genetic sequences by turning on/off genes in plants and animals. If they can be used to treat or prevent genetic diseases then I’m very much in favour of continued research. My sister has a genetic disease called cystic fibrosis and a cure would be fantastic. Also perhaps somewhat controversially I don’t have a huge problem with growing genetically modified foods. Plants have been genetically modified naturally and unnaturally for centuries by farmers and nature (survival of the fittest!) , so if the laboratory can help in the process without impairing the quality I’m all for It!

    • Photo: Michel Destrade

      Michel Destrade answered on 4 Nov 2016:

      I got stumped on that one. Thought it was a salt&vinegar versus cheese&onion question, but turns out CRISPR a genome editing tool. I’m such an ignorant!

      That’s the problem with science, it’s too large a field now and we must specialise early. One hundred years ago, a very good scientist could actually know all there was to know about science. Now more than 2 million scientific papers are published every year, so forget it!

      Nonetheless, CRISPR seems to be a very important scientific development, so I have no excuse. In NUI Galway, my next door neighbour Professor Cathal Seoighe works on the impact of mutations on genes. I will knock on his door next week see what he thinks.

    • Photo: Roisin Jones

      Roisin Jones answered on 5 Nov 2016:

      I confess, I had to look this up! As Michael said, as scientists, we are so specialised that we often don’t know about developments outside our own specific field.

      While I’ve only just heard of it, and so haven’t formed a strong opinion, on the surface it looks like fascinating, cutting-edge science which could provide a lot of treatment options for genetic diseases (like the cystic fibrosis that Karen mentioned) and also diseases that work by affecting your DNA, for example, cancer. Looks impressive, I hope to hear more about it in the future!

    • Photo: Mark Kennedy

      Mark Kennedy answered on 6 Nov 2016:

      I’m also a bit of a newb with regard to CRISPR – as a physicist, I don’t often hear about the great research happening in biology and chemistry. But I do have a friend who works with CRISPR, who said

      “I think it’s fantastic. It’s a great gene editing tool that can provide some great biological insights (if it ever works)”

      After having a discussion with her about it, I mostly agree – it would be amazing if it works right, but I think the point at which it’ll become useful to us is still a long way off! Like most things in science, it’s going to take a whole lot of people working very hard to make it work (maybe one of those people will be you!).

    • Photo: Gavin Coleman

      Gavin Coleman answered on 7 Nov 2016:

      Hey again! I hope I answered your question in the chat, but just to go over it again: I think it’s an incredibly useful tool for scientists to use. There’s so much time goes into editing the genomes of cells or animals to be able to test theories, and then it still only works some time. the cut and paste nature of crispr can only lead to more progress, and for less. however we must be careful with technologies like this, as playing with genetics can have some stronger effects than at first thought if the proper checks aren’t implemented. I also don’t love the idea of patenting something that *could* technically be found naturally..but then scientists need to be able to make money from their research as funding is so tight. it’s definitely not simple, but from the point of view of the technique alone, anything that helps scientists make a bigger and better impact is good, when responsibly used.