Inspecting Pandora’s box: Promises and perils of gene drives

This is a guest post by Aleksandra Stelmach, University of Nottingham, Institute for Science and Society. *** Some years ago the sociologist Alan Petersen noted that metaphors of new biotechnologies not only express hopes and fears about their use and misuse, but that they also set the agenda for debate and action. Thus, metaphors not …

CRISPR culture

CRISPR is a way of changing and replacing parts of DNA using enzymes like a pair of molecular scissors (of course things are more complex than this!). This new technology for ‘editing’ DNA, genes or genomes began to attract public attention between around 2012 and 2015. When I started to write about metaphors used to …

Why are NGOs sceptical of gene editing?

This is a guest post by Richard Helliwell. It is based on the recent article Why are NGOs sceptical of genome editing? published in EMBO Reports, co-authored with Sarah Hartley (University of Exeter) Warren Pearce (University of Sheffield), and Liz O’Neill (GM Freeze). It is the first study examining NGO perspectives on genome editing. Genome …

Base editing, biological complexity and the limits of metaphorical explanation

Gene editing has been in the news since around 2013. Here I want to focus on one of the most recent advances which made me question my own understanding of gene editing. In 2015 a team of scientists led by Junjiu Huang at Sun Yet-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, used gene editing techniques, in this …

Designer babies? Not again!

Preface: I had just put the finishing touches to this post and I was doing the washing up, when I heard on the six o’clock news that the paper I’ll talk about below has now been published in Nature. I’ll still publish this post though. It would be great to compare the pre-paper news coverage with the …

Gene surgery – Genchirurgie

On 22nd October 2016 Roland Jackson tweeted that he was going to Berlin to participate in a trilateral meeting of English (Nuffield Foundation on Bioethics), German and French bioethics committees on gene/genome editing. I tweeted back and asked whether there would be a report; he tweeted an older press release by the German Ethics Council …

Precision metaphors in a messy biological world

The promises of nanoscience and nanotechnology have been framed by a variety of future oriented metaphors, such as the those of the fantastic voyage or the master builder. The former metaphor has been especially prominent in early reports on the promises of nanomedicine, but it is still in use today. What happens when real breakthroughs …

On books, circuits and life

I have recently been trying to understand CRISPR, gene editing and genome editing. While reading about these new developments in genomics, I noticed that in the avalanche of news reports reference is only rarely made to synthetic biology (on 5 January there were 188 articles on CRISPR in Major World Newspapers on the LexisNexis news …