Arun H. S. Kumar
Editor in Chief, Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
Advancement in life science is happening at a rapid scale, with occasional reports of blockbuster discoveries. One such discovery, which is currently trending, is the report on CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which is a powerful and precise gene-editing tool. While the medical benefits of such a technology are obvious, the risks and, most importantly, the ethical concerns collaterally associated with such risks need in-depth analysis, so as to place appropriate preventive measures to avoid abuse of such technology. Although only a few studies are published on CRISPR technology so far, the products of such gene editing approach are already appearing commercially. One such example is the micro-pig created by BGI, Shenzen, China, which is evolving the era of designer pets amid ethical concerns. While the legality and ethical perception on such products developed may vary across the geographical domains; nevertheless, there is a need for universal consensus on socially responsible use of such a powerful technology, specifically considering equipotential risks and benefits of such technology. Nevertheless, progression in this technology will add considerably to the next domain of therapeutics, which over the years has evolved from crude extracts, receptor targeting, and specific small molecule therapeutics to the ultimate holy grail of precision engineering (repair/replacement) of biomolecules. This advancement brings considerable refinement to the field of pharmacology by incorporating the biomolecular-engineering which can be broadly be classified as genopharmacology/therapeutics (a therapeutic approach involving precise editing/engineering of genes/biomolecules). Such a paradigm shift in the field will necessarily involve successful replication of studies reported using this technology by multiple independent research groups globally. Such replications are necessary in addressing a very important issue on reliability of scientific reports, which has been intensively discussed recently as currently a significant amount of data reported in scientific literature cannot be replicated. The reasons for lack of study replications may be multi-factorial, including poor study designs, inappropriate use of experimental models, and in some instances gross neglect or oversights. Hence, as highlighted in our previous editorials, it is necessary to have transparency and avoid biasness in all aspects of scientific research to improve its validity. Unless these two important parameters can be fully achieved, the reliability of any scientific research will continue to be questioned. Surprisingly, such lack in replicability of scientific results has also led some sceptics to question the utility of experimental animals as reliable models to understand human diseases, which has disappointingly led to unnecessary restrictions in the use of animals in scientific research. This is despite the enormous wealth of information available in the public domain supporting the benefits animal models has contributed in development of almost all the available medicines used for therapeutics currently. Such scepticism can only delay but not deny scientific advancement and probably, this will hold good for CRISPR-Cas9 technology as well. Read more…