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CRISPR Flies Have Been Gene-Edited, Enabling Them to Consume Poison Harmlessly

Oct 4, 2019 by CharismaticMannequin

As if flies weren’t annoying enough; soon they might be eating poison and storing in themselves. Great, loads of poisonous flies in the world. Fortunately, this is all based in a lab, and marks an achievement in gene-editing progress. 

“Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to give fruit flies an evolutionary advantage they’ve never had before. By making just three small changes to a single gene, the team gave the flies the ability to effectively eat poison and store it in their bodies, protecting themselves from predators in the process.” (NewAtlas)

The scientists have given flies the ability to consume Milkweed – a plant that’s toxic to most animals and insects, bar the monarch butterfly. Now these fruit flies also have the ability, marking the first time a multicellular organism has been edited to endow it with new adaptions and behaviours – a new diet and defense mechanism in this case.

It’s an interesting development, and also showcases how scientists can test evolutionary hypotheses by editing certain genes. Imagining the possibilities of such technology in the future is mind-boggling, and also somewhat terrifying; imagine if we could rid ourselves of weaknesses, diseases, and improve various aspects such as our eye-sight, stamina, etc? We could essentially make ourselves super-human.

But the terrifying part? Who decides who gets these edits? Will it be limited to those who can afford it? It’s a concerning prospect, and one of the reasons many are warning against its continuing progression. 

What do you think of gene-editing and CRISPR? Is it a good thing? Or should we leave well enough alone? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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