Let people most affected by gene editing write CRISPR rules

Article: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2086548-let-people-most-affected-by-gene-editing-write-crispr-rules/

For those of us who don’t follow science news, the CRISPR/Cas9 system has been the recent buzz topic in research and ethical debates. Derived from a defense mechanism in bacteria, CRISPR is a system that allows for experiments that “cut out” certain parts of DNA and replace them with new sequences, which can be synthesized ahead of time in the lab. CRISPR is a breakthrough not only because of its efficiency, but because of its specificity – instead of having to culture a line of cells or mice over a series of generations with a specific mutation, CRISPR can go to the target gene in essentially one go.

(This article is a pretty good overview of how CRISPR works, for those who are interested: http://gizmodo.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-crispr-the-new-tool-1702114381 )

Gene editing has a very broad variety of applications, as studies involving DNA can apply to almost any model system, from microbes to mice to humans. Most of the recent debate, including what is discussed in this article, has surrounded humans and the potential and ethicality of gene editing derived therapies. It comes down to the Gattaca questions of cure and the eugenic/medical model.

Gene editing therapies do have the potential to help people with genetic conditions that cause severe pain and/or are terminal. As the article points out, however, these people and others potentially affected by new therapies are not being included in the conversations surrounding CRISPR and its derivatives. Scientific research unsurprisingly tends to lean towards or be in outright support of the medical model. In my own time reading current various cell biology and clinical research, I’ve seen outdated language such as the r-slur still being used in titles of recent research journal articles. The scientific community needs to be listening to disabled people before they decide what kind of research serves their “best interests.”

The article also pointed out that the conversations and resulting therapies are also being limited geographically. Debates primarily discuss effects of CRISPR therapies on upper class white people who live in the US or Europe, despite the potential use for gene editing therapies for patients in poor areas of the world. For example, CRISPR could be used to change the genomes of populations of mosquitos carrying malaria, which according to the cdc is found in highest transmission rate in sub-saharan Africa and parts of Oceania.

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Disabled Models in Advertising

Article: As big brands begin to embrace diversity – being different never looked so normal

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2016/04/23/as-big-brands-begin-to-embrace-diversity-being-different-never-looked-so-normal-5800133/#ixzz47FHF13S0

Having diverse representation in the media is incredibly important, especially in this society that prioritizes a very specific ideal person (that is, a white cisgendered heterosexual able bodied male). However when “representation” comes in conjunction with advertising, you have to wonder how much of a distinction to make between a success for a certain minority group and pandering.

In the article “As big brands begin to embrace diversity – being different never looked so normal,” the author cites companies who use disabled models in their campaigns as “at work to revolutionise the way we think about ourselves by embracing diversity.” The article goes on to show several recent examples of disabled models and models of other marginalized identities in advertising campaigns.

I have two main problems with this idea as advertising campaigns being used as examples of inclusivity in this article:

1. The idea that companies make advertisements with a goal of making positive change in society rather than to sell their products. Companies want to sell products, and if it seems like making a “progressive” advertisement will sell more products, they will do so. How many of the companies on the list in this article also went on to make more inclusive policies for their workers? How many have factories with disabling conditions? I’m not saying that disabled models and actors should not be used, but I think the statement that companies are “at work to revolutionise the way we think” is unfounded.

2. The lumping together of images that portray disabled models as “inspirational” as equally “progressive”to other kinds of campaigns.  As we have talked about several times in class, having disabled people serve as “inspiration” is not only objectifying, but ultimately does nothing to challenge ableist standards of normality.
I’m glad to see disabled models being successful in their work. I wish though, that we weren’t so quick to congratulate companies as progressive when they really continue to function in the neoliberal capitalist framework that oppresses those same models.