In the pause: Rediscovering awe in CRISPR

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” ~Albert Einstein

In this year of pausing and reflecting more, I try to read, see, hear, or experience one thing every day that seems completely out of this world. Things that make me wonder. Things that make me stand in awe.

Today that thing is something known as CRISPR. In a very small and simple nutshell, it’s a “find and replace” function for cellular DNA. There is research underway right now at Penn, my alma mater, that is attempting to turn cells into cancer super-fighters.

Other scientists are testing the ideas of using CRISPR to take HIV, cancer, and Alzheimer’s right out of the cells where they exist at the genetic level. Elsewhere, they are creating healthy crops and looking at the possibility of reviving extinct species. There is a chance, and a healthy one at that, that CRISPR could change life on earth as we know it. And with it, there are mountains of ethical and moral questions that have no answers.

It’s my hope that in the coming months and years I will find a way to somehow participate in these conversations and help others participate, too. 2017 is poised to be another wild ride, and I’m grateful for the pause to help me process it.