Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, has created the world’s first genetically modified embryos. Although this can be considered as a revolutionary step to gene-editing, many claim that Jiankui’s work was premature as there is not enough research to certify how safe gene-editing in humans is.
CRISPR-cas9 is a protein recently discovered that can quickly modify any harmful genes in a person’s system. If one were to contract an illness during their lifetime, then have it go away, only for it to come back a second time, the second time the body would be more equipped to fight off this system, rather than simply having DNA fight it off, the CRISPR molecule would simply edit it out of the genetic code. Jiankui started with seven embryos, and recently the first were born, two twin girls. Many denounced this work as unethical, and as human experimentation as the world is simply not ready for CRISPR gene editing. CRISPR gene editing is illegal in countries such as the United States and Canada.
Another concern many may bring up is the idea of clones. CRISPR gene editing is the first step towards creating human clones. Imagine a world filled with clones wandering the streets, and we won’t know who’s real and who’s a clone. Many movies show examples of this, such as The Island, which is about clones living in an underground facility, unaware of the fact that they are clones, believing they are real people, only to have their organ harvested later. CRISPR gene editing could eventually lead to this, and creating human clones goes beyond being immoral, it’s inhumane.
CRISPR editing is unsafe, as scientists don’t know the full effects it will have on a human life, yet Jiankui simply went ahead and did it, without any worry for the consequences. One big thing scientists are uncertain of, is if this gene-editing will affect the children of those with edited genes. If it does, this could have grave effects on the children’s lives, making them unable to live a normal life. Therefore, more research needs to be done before CRISPR editing can be done properly, without a chance for harm to be brought to the organisms.
CRISPR editing is the first step in genetically-edited human organisms; although it is a step taken too soon, people are already looking at editing the genes of an embryo, to change their features before they are born. A term which could be used for these babies is “designer babies” with options to choose eye colour, hair colour, facial features, and other physical parts of the baby. This is simply un ethical and immoral, to change the looks of a baby in order to please a parent is cruel and inhumane. And just to mention again, scientists still do not know the full scale of effects gene-editing can have on human organisms, and there is a chance of harm being brought to a baby.
Jiankui started CRISPR gene editing without any consideration for the ethics of this experiment, and for the lives of the babies experimented on. One day CRISPR gene editing may even lead to clones.
Feature photo courtesy of New York Post