If you have read my previous article, you will be familiar with my stance on genetic engineering.
For those of you who have not read my earlier articles, I would suggest that you read them to know more about this.
This article is related to the same idea, on a certain ‘downside’ that I don’t see being talked about anywhere.
The concern that I have is quite simply put, whether genetic engineering will end up turning people into chimeras or not.
SOMETHING ABOUT CHIMERAS
Before anything, it is probably a good idea for me to explain what a chimera is.
A ‘chimera’ is in simple words, a creature from Greek Mythology, made up of several different animals. It was said to be made up of a lion, a goat and a snake.
Also, it is not just in Greek mythology that you could find such creatures. About the only thing that is ‘Greek’ here happens to be the word; the English word ‘Chimera’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘Chimera’.
On the contrary, there were chimeras in other civilizations as well. For example, the infamous Sphinx, which was said to have wings, a lion’s body and a man’s head, was a ‘Chimera’ if you took the purest definition of the word.
| Source |
Now, let’s get to the ‘biological’ or ‘genetic’ chimeras …
In genetics, a ‘chimera’ is an organism made up of several different varieties of cells, or for that matter the characteristics from several different organisms.
| Source |
This article is perhaps a direct reference to this concept, or maybe something different. However, I would say that this is the perfect way to describe one particular unintended consequence of genetic engineering that I wanted to talk about.
HOW GENETIC ENGINEERING WORKS
There is much to be said about genetic engineering on how it works.
The below explanation of the process is a fairly simplified version of the entire process.
- The genes to be edited are selected.
- The replacement genes are selected.
- The gene programming is done on whatever gene-editing process has been selected. The most popular one today is CRISPR, but it could be others as well.
- The genes get edited.
- The process is completed.
THE RISE OF HUMAN CHIMERAS?
The way that gene editing works is by injecting the gene editing cocktail into a person.
Once the injection is done, the genome editing process begins, on EVERY SINGLE CELL in his body. And for your information, the body has anywhere from 15 to 70 trillion cells, depending on the information source.
And this is where it gets a bit tricky and maybe dangerous.
The fact that you get the gene edits done in a person is fantastic.
But then again, there is one concern that doesn’t seem to be talked about at all anywhere. And this is where the issue of ‘Human Chimeras’ comes into the picture …
To be more specific, it is several important questions about the whole thing; questions such as …
- What is the guarantee that this gene editing process will happen on EVERY SINGLE CELL in the human body?
- Is there a possibility that the therapy will miss out a few cells here and there?
- And what are the consequences of a few cells being left out from the gene editing process? Will it end up being fatal to the patient?
- In other words, will this gene editing process end up creating people who have two sets of cells(of any function; heart, liver, skin, muscle, etc); one with the edited genes and one without?
- And should this happen, what is to be expected from a botched and partial gene-editing process?
- Will the person even survive if say, one half of his cells are different from the other half?
- What if the immune system considered that the ‘edited’ cells are ‘foreign’ bodies and begin to destroy them? Could this lead to a new kind of auto-immune diseases?
- Should the patient receive multiple doses of gene therapy (whether through multiple injections, intravenous drip, etc) to ensure all of the body’s cells have been thoroughly edited?
- Should biopsies be taken from all parts of the body and subjected to genetic screening to ensure every last cell is edited, or whether some of them have been left out?
- Should the medical industry specify say, a ‘minimum editing percentage’, where a gene therapy or treatment is legally required to stick to a certain percentage of gene edits (say 95-98% for example), before it is declared a ‘success’?
- Should there be a follow up to ensure that those cells that were left unedited aren’t proliferating in the person’s body?
In all, this is something which I don’t really have an answer for.
But at the same time, it is something that I am interested in knowing about, and which I think is important for the medical community to take into consideration.
I really don’t know the answer to any of these questions. But I do know that they are valid ones and deserving of a fitting answer.
When we will be able to get the answers, is of course, another story …