Major media outlets like Netflix have put out documentaries about it. People in the scientific community have been talking about it and even using it over the latter part of the past decade. We are talking about designer DNA and gene editing. Processed used to literally re-compose our genetic structure. Sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, right? Well, it’s real. Scientists are researching and using it for many potential applications.
It is only in the last 65 years that mankind has figured out how DNA works in the body. Just a single lifetime. We are living in the age of genetic science like the planet has never seen before. In that time, we have built machines that could read it and tools that could re-write it. Many are calling concepts like this critical to fighting diseases like Cancer and HIV.
On the cosmetic side, though, the question remains. Is gene editing ever going to be used to help humans cosmetically? Are “designer babies” going to become a mainstream concept in the future?
What is gene editing?
To put it as simply as possible, gene editing is a technology that allows humans to edit the contents and outcome of human genetics. Currently, this is being used only in the medical field. Scientists and physicians are trying to fight diseases like HIV, Sickle Cell, and Cancers using gene editing.
CRISPR and Medical Gene Editing
Have you ever heard of CRISPR? It is a segment of DNA that bacteria replicate from viruses in order to help them fight it as time goes on. It helps them develop enzymes to quickly fight the virus, cut them off, and stop them from replicating. That immune system developed int he bacteria is called CRISPR.
In 2012, Jennifer Doudna and her collaborators showed that they could re-program the CRISPR system to track down and edit a gene of their choice. This took CRISPR from an interesting discovery to a powerful tool.
It is the main tool used for this purpose. It is able to edit human DNA with incredible precision. Believe it or not, it has become so affordable that you can even tweak the DNA of bacteria at home with a DIY CRISPR Kit. That is how accessible they have made this technology and how seemingly simple it is to use. Gene editing has taken off like few technologies have in the history of the human race.
How is it done?
In order to alter the human genome, a genetic engineer uses “molecular scissors” to cut into a cell and make alterations, add, or subtract genetic matter.
Will human gene-editing ever be affordable for everyone?
Regardless of how good this all sounds. It is only important to us if we will ever be able to access the technology for ourselves, right. Well, you might be surprised by the answer to that. The cost of gene editing and gene “sequencing” has decreased dramatically since its inception during the Clinton administration.
What does the data have to say?
The number is decreasing 10-fold over and over throughout the 16-17 year period shown in this chart. When technology becomes more accessible to more and more doctors, it will naturally become more accessible to us, too. It is a matter of time before gene editing and “designer babies” really hit the mainstream.
Therapy Gene Editing and Enhancement Gene Editing
There is a line between editing the human genome in the pursuit of fighting disease and editing them in pursuit of perfecting the modern human being. People generally do not find therapy edits to be controversial. They are like medicine. They are used to help one person and the edits die with that person.
Enhancement of gene editing, on the other hand, finds much more controversy in communities around the world. It is banned in many countries and has been for decades.
There is also another important distinction to be made; whether you are editing just your own genes or the genes of your offspring throughout future generations.
Somatic Gene Editing
When we talk about somatic genes, we talk about genes in cells that die with the person. These would be things like brain cells, blood cells, skin cells, etc. These somatic genes live only in one person and cannot be passed on to offspring. Edits to these genes are done outside the body, tested, and re-introduced to patients to help fight disease.
Germline Gene Editing
Germline genes, on the other hand, are genes that exist in sperm cells and embryos. These are genes that would be passed on to the next generation. If we were to make edits to these genes in people, we could be potentially re-shaping human evolution. This is the most controversial aspect of gene editing and the one people find the most unethical. Who is to say what should and should not be considered a disease. What should be “weeded out” of the human experience? Is deafness a disease? Dwarfism? Many people in these communities would tell you that is not the case.
The cosmetic potential of gene editing
After knowing all of this, it seems like a matter of time before gene editing finds its way into cosmetics. If you could change the color of your eyes or hair with gene editing, would you? Would you change it knowing that your future children and their children would be affected by the changes you make? That is the major question that many in the community are still grappling with.
We are not here to tell you how we weigh in one way or another. We are simply here to present you the facts, give you something interesting to read, and get your mind working! This is not science fiction, it is real life. Very soon, Cosmetic Institutes could be offering services like this.
Get in touch or drop us a comment if you would like to weigh in. We would love to hear from you!
Until next time,
Chicago Cosmetic Institute