Google "CRISPR" and headlines touting "designer babies," "human rights," and "bioethics" are more likely to come up than descriptions of how researchers are actually using the powerful new technology.
Initial public outcry over a novel medical technology isn't anything new: vaccines, transfusions, transplants, recombinant DNA, in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, GMOs, gene therapy – the list is long.
But genome editing, using tools such as CRISPR, seems to have struck a public nerve in a more profound way, largely because of the reported rush to tinkering with human fertilized ova, fertilized ova, an intervention that would alter the genomes of future generations.
But what does the public really understand about "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats," aka CRISPR? It's fairly complicated to follow the details – the choreography of DNA, RNA and proteins; nuances of repeated and unique DNA sequences; details of recombination and DNA repair. But a PhD certainly isn't necessary to ponder the consequences of the ability to modify the human germline – the DNA that's passed on to future generations.
A carefully designed and tested questionnaire
In a paper in the January 2019 issue of Human Gene Therapy, Alex Hewitt, of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, a professor of ophthalmology who also has a PhD, and colleagues probed the reasons behind public perception of human gene editing
To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.