CRISPR-Cas9 has been revolutionary, making gene editing, a process which is exactly as complex and difficult as it sounds, relatively simple. Some scientists want to use it make human organs inside of pigs. A steady supply of organs would save millions of lives.
How they'd do it:
- Find the gene in the pig embryo responsible for a particular organ and delete it.
- Inject iPS cells, similar to stem cells except taken from human skin, into the embryo, and implant in the mother pig.
- Remove the chimeric embryo after the 28th day to look for basic organ development.
It is that last step that has people concerned. As of now, there doesn't seem to be complete control over exactly which organs develop. It could be a kidney. Or, it could be a brain; a human brain in a pigs body.
"If you have pigs with partly human brains you would have animals that might actually have consciousness like a human," Newman says. "It might have human-type needs. We don't really know." -Pablo Ross of the University of California
In your story, this could be an extreme solution to an extreme problem. We have been drastically changing the environment in ways that evolution can't keep up with. The planet would most likely survive but there's a chance that we wouldn't. Could we use the gene editing technology to change ourselves in order to survive the new world we create? What would happen if we edited into the DNA of our children the self-repairing genes from a lizard or octopus? Maybe an organism that breathes carbon-dioxide?
Imagine that future and write it.