Chemical surgery might change our lives

Precise chemical surgery has been performed on embryos by a Chinese team at the Sun Yat-sen University to alter their DNA and remove diseases. They were able to alter a single error out of three billion features of our genetic code. They did this on lab-made embryos, which have not been implanted. This medical procedure my one day treat a series of inherited diseases or even prevent babies from being born with a disease.

The approach is called base-editing, which alters the fundamental building blocks of our DNA. They are known as A,G,C and T (English = A,G,C and U). All our information is encoded in combinations of these four bases. Base-editing takes gene-editing a step further as it is more efficient and has fewer side effects. Prof. David Liu pioneered the chemical surgery at Harvard University.

However, the procedure sparked an ethical debate about what is acceptable and what is not in efforts to prevent diseases. It will be a while until this new approach will be used clinically. Before that there needs to be far more debate and stricter rules for regulation and oversight. A long-term follow-up is also important to detect any possible negative effect.

surgery (ˈsɜ:ʤəri) – die Operation

to alter (ˈɔ:ltəʳ) – etw ändern

to remove (rɪˈmu:v) – etw entfernen

disease (dɪˈzi:z) – die Krankheit, das Leiden

feature (ˈfi:əʳ) – das Merkmal, das Charakteristikum

to treat (tri:t) – (eine Krankheit) behandeln

to inherit (ɪnˈherɪt) – etw erben, übernehmen

to prevent (prɪˈvent) – etw verhindern, vorbeugen

approach (əˈprəʊ) – hier: der Ansatz, die Herangehensweise

to encode (ɪnˈkəʊd) – etw kodieren, verschlüsseln

to pioneer (ˌpəˈnɪəʳ) – den Weg für etw bereiten

to spark (spɑ:k) – etw entfachen

ethical (ˈeθɪkəl) – ehtisch

acceptable (əkˈseptəb) – akzeptabel, annehmbar

oversight (ˈəʊvəʳst) – die Aufsicht, Beaufsichtigung

to detect (dɪˈtekt) – etw entdecken, feststellen


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