Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Genetic engineering - CRISPR

I've brought up the subject of DNA editing before.  Our gender is defined by chromosomes, which are made up of thousands of DNA strands.  If you can make genetic modifications on the DNA level, I see no reason why you couldn't modify your "genes" to be the opposite gender and in effect give yourself a gender change on the DNA level.  Now that's not to say you'll suddenly have the opposite genitals (even hormones won't change that), but imagine flipping a switch and having your body produce natural hormones of the gender you choose?  Also from a medical / forensics point of view (and perhaps a social point of view), you would in effect be transformed into a CISgender (at least medically).

So the buzzword (CRISPR) came up recently, and it's making news because it's changing the speed and cost at which we can experiment with DNA altering.  So much so that the cost has shrunk by 99%, and the time is sped up from a year down to a few weeks.  They make a good comparison to how the first computers (early DNA editing) were really slow, complicated, and expensive.  As time went on, computers got faster, cheaper, and more readily available to the general public.  This also happened at an exponential rate (processing power still doubles about every 18 months).  So when you consider this jump in efficiency, you have to wonder how quickly we'll see benefits from this.  They bring up the point of completely eradicating diseases, possibly slow down or stopping aging, perhaps even reversing aging.  They also bring up designer babies, where in effect you could pick out traits and have a beautiful kid.  Of course gender changes aren't mentioned, but it's only a matter of time before someone decodes the DNA strand, finds out which ones determine gender, and experiment on a human subject to see if it flips the gender switch.

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