A step forward in science has taken place, all the way across the world in China. A scientist there recently made the world’s first set of genetically mutated babies. This type of genetic editing method goes under the name CRISPR; it allows scientists to mutate the DNA of an embryo (an unborn baby) or any organism for that matter. The unique part of this method is that it lets professionals focus and edit on one specific part of DNA. For example, scientists can insert instructions on desirable characteristics of the future baby such as their eye, hair and skin colour.
This popular technique has been around since 2012, used on embryos that didn’t end up being born, but He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist, was the first to take it a step further. Jiankui implanted his edited embryos back into the mother and had her carry and then deliver two twin girls. The reasoning behind this procedure was to make the baby girls more immune to the HIV virus and unable to contract it since their father happened to carry the gene, which he would most likely pass it down to them.
People around the world shared their shock and fear as soon as the news came out about this event, worried that this unethical experiment might end up going too far, resulting in common practices of designing babies. While it is possible that this use of such advanced science could end up being unethical, this recent event didn’t show any signs of immoral acts. It was done to test the limits of science and all and all, try and find a cure to heritable diseases that affect families everywhere such as HIV. Also, research has shown that CRISPR can bring a lot of other positives to humanity. For example, scientists have discovered that this technology can allow pig organs to be inserted into humans who need something like a heart or lung transplant. This gene-editing technique has also shown that it can be a treatment for spinal cord injuries, since it can regenerate new nerves and create a better quality of life for a patient. Body part regeneration is also a big project involving this method, as doctors continue to research if such a impossible idea could become a reality. There are endless amounts of possibilities that CRISPR holds, displaying how much it can improve the lives of people everywhere if more commonly used.
Humans evolve and develop new advances in science and technology all the time, which always seem to push our current limits. If someone from 50 years ago was introduced to what we use and live with now, they would probably condemn it, think it is unethical and will progress into something horrible. This situation is similar. Many scientists do not agree with Jiankui decision to use this gene editing on real humans, but maybe in 50 years, it will be a normal procedure. As long as we use this miraculous breakthrough in science for the better of people everywhere as Jiankui displayed, this CRISPR event will have paved a path that will be traveled upon for many years ahead.