A New Alien Invasion?

Image from morguefile.com

Image from morguefile.com

What do you think of when I say “science fiction.” Most people think of stories of human space exploration, or the reverse, space aliens invading earth.

But what if the alien invasion came from earth? A new gene editing technology has recently been in the spotlight. Called CRISPR, it uses CAS9 enzymes to snip out genes and replace them with something else. Click here and here for  earlier posts about it.

It makes the potential to remove harmful genes from embryos a distinct reality so that those who may pass on a genetic disorder will be able to have a child without risk it will be present.

But some are concerned that people might start expecting made to order children, where anything from height to intelligence could be programmed. As in the movie Gattaca, it could create a society of genetic haves and have-nots on top of the social class advantages that already exist.

Another concern that could amount to creating an earth-grown alien invasion arises because the technology is so simple, someone can actually do it in a home laboratory. Even now, people are altering seeds or small life forms. So far efforts by the biohackers have been benign.

They might change the color of a flower, or alter yeast in order to create a different flavor for beer. How long is it before someone creates an invasive species, super infection, or weed that is indestructible?

Are these concerns overblown? What is more likely? A space alien invasion or an earth alien invasion from a lab?


Biohackers gear up for genome editing


Genome Editing: 7 Facts About a Revolutionary Technology

Lucy Odling-Smee, Heidi Ledford, Sara Reardon and Nature magazine, November 30, 2015


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