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Could there be dragons in our future – and do we really want them around?

Dragon, photo by Baltasar Vischi, flickr

Graphuc by by Baltasar Vischi, flickr

Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should. That truism stands with the recent announcement that scientists just might consider using a targeted gene-editing system known as CRISPR-CAS9 (a new genome editing tool) to create real dragons in our lifetime. Seriously?

Gene editing tool CRISPR-CAS9

An essay in The American Journal of Bioethics penned by co-authors Professors Hank T Greely, director of the Centre for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School, and R Alta Charo, Professor of Bioethics and Law at Wisconsin Law School, said their dragon suggestion was “somewhat tongue-in-cheek” but “not impossible”.

CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are sections of DNA. CAS-9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) is an enzyme. Bacteria use them to disable attacks from viruses. These biomedical tools have led to the creation of “GloFish” that shine under UV light, the eradication of horns from certain cattle species, manipulation of crops and attempts to produce hypo-allergenic cats.

Woolly mammoth, photo by Rob Pongsajapan, flickr

Photo by Rob Pongsajapan, flickr

Using them, however, to recreate extinct animals such as wooly mammoths (yes, they’re actually working on this) and fire-breathing dragons is both impractical and absurd in our break-neck technological world. Although the idea of dragons has fueled numerous books about them, the reality of actually having them around could only spell HUGE disaster for humans. Better to let these fascinating creatures stay in our mythology and literature.

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