Gene drives and Trojan horses: A tale of two metaphor uses

I was reading a recent article on gene drive entitled “Engineering bugs, resurrecting species: The wild world of synthetic biology for conservation” and came across this sentence about a so-called ‘Medea drive’: “This genetic Trojan Horse could then be used to spread elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as triggering the death …

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 …

Making science by publicity stunt: The case of the CRISPR babies

Science is supposed to be a public, systematic, consensible, evidence-based and collaborative enterprise. It’s also supposed to be carried out responsibly, not recklessly. Making science in public and making science public are complex processes. Making public science normally doesn’t consist in presenting fellow-scientists and members of the public with a ‘fait accompli’. This is however …

Genome editing: Invisible mending

Last week I had a few days in Oxford to visit old haunts, such as the Ashmolean, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I also went to a little exhibition in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science. The exhibition by Anna Dumitriu was entitled BioArt and Bacteria. …

Genome editing, metaphors and language choices

Genetic Alliance and the Progress Educational Trust recently published a report entitled ‘’Basic understanding of genome editing”, based on research supported by the Wellcome Trust. As I have worked on metaphors relating to genetic, genomics and genome editing for more than twenty years, I was particularly interested in this report. Unlike many other publications, including …

The book of life: Reading, writing and editing

I have been observing the use of the ‘book of life’ metaphor in genetics and genomics since the year 2000, when it was used to announce that the human genome, our entire DNA, had been roughly sequenced. The Human Genome Project had begun in 1990 and was completed in 2003. Its achievement consisted in finding …