Editing Genes? Proceed With Caution


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CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, is busting biotech open, and it keeps evolving, writes Jim Kozubek (Time). New enzymes make edits more precise and accurate. “Technical limitations are evaporating,” Kozubek says. “The method is here to last. The ethics will only get more fraught.”

But the real challenge to CRISPR may still lie ahead — in the complex thickets of genetics itself. CRISPR lets researchers pluck out and insert individual genes. But the traits that make up a human being are the product of a complex interplay among multiple genes and the environment. Good and bad are rolled together and mixed up, and we’re only beginning to understand how. Even when we can identify a specific gene’s role in some undesirable trait, according to Kozubek, “genetic variants that predispose us to risk or supposed weaknesses are precisely the same ones that turn out to have small fitness advantages.”

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