Should Babies Be Genetically Engineered? By Wynne Parry February 18,
At his labyrinthine laboratory on the Harvard Medical School campus, you can find researchers giving E. Coli a novel genetic code never seen in nature. Around another bend, others are carrying out a plan to use DNA engineering to resurrect the woolly mammoth.
His lab, Church likes to say, is the center of a new technological genesis—one in which man rebuilds creation to suit himself. With Church, Yang had founded a small biotechnology company to engineer the genomes of pigs and cattle, sliding in beneficial genes and editing away bad ones.
Can any of this be done to human beings? Can we improve the human gene pool? The position of much of mainstream science has been that such meddling would be unsafe, irresponsible, and even impossible.
Yes, of course, she said. In fact, the Harvard laboratory had a project under way to determine how it could be achieved. By editing the DNA of these cells or the embryo itself, it could be possible to correct disease genes and pass those genetic fixes on to future generations.
Such a technology could be used to rid families of scourges like cystic fibrosis. Such history-making medical advances could be as important to this century as vaccines were to the last. The fear is that germ-line engineering is a path toward a dystopia of superpeople and designer babies for those who can afford it.
Want a child with blue eyes and blond hair? Just three years after its initial development, CRISPR technology is already widely used by biologists as a kind of search-and-replace tool to alter DNA, even down to the level of a single letter. So far, caution and ethical concerns have had the upper hand.
A dozen countries, not including the United States, have banned germ-line engineering, and scientific societies have unanimously concluded that it would be too risky to do.
But all these declarations were made before it was actually feasible to precisely engineer the germ line. The experiment Yang described, though not simple, would go like this: The researchers hoped to obtain, from a hospital in New York, the ovaries of a woman undergoing surgery for ovarian cancer caused by a mutation in a gene called BRCA1.
Working with another Harvard laboratory, that of antiaging specialist David Sinclairthey would extract immature egg cells that could be coaxed to grow and divide in the laboratory. Yang would later tell me that she dropped out of the project not long after we spoke.
Yet it remained difficult to know if the experiment she described was occurring, canceled, or awaiting publication. Regardless of the fate of that particular experiment, human germ-line engineering has become a burgeoning research concept. At least three other centers in the United States are working on it, as are scientists in China, in the U.
All this means that germ-line engineering is much further along than anyone imagined. Several people interviewed by MIT Technology Review said that such experiments had already been carried out in China and that results describing edited embryos were pending publication.
Very easy, experts say.
To create the models, Feng will edit the DNA of embryos and then transfer them into female marmosets to produce live monkeys. The CRISPR system includes a gene-snipping enzyme and a guide molecule that can be programmed to target unique combinations of the DNA letters, A, G, C, and T; get these ingredients into a cell and they will cut and modify the genome at the targeted sites.
To employ the CRISPR system in the monkeys, his students simply inject the chemicals into a fertilized egg, which is known as a zygote—the stage just before it starts dividing. Feng said the efficiency with which CRISPR can delete or disable a gene in a zygote is about 40 percent, whereas making specific edits, or swapping DNA letters, works less frequently—more like 20 percent of the time.
|Designer Babies||By Jagriti Gangopadhyay Last Updated: Monday 26 November A designer baby is a GM human embryo with appropriate qualities which have been shaped as per the instructions received from the parents.|
|The Globe and Mail||General[ edit ] With ART, the process of sexual intercourse is bypassed and fertilization of the oocytes occurs in the laboratory environment i.|
Like a person, a monkey has two copies of most genes, one from each parent. Sometimes both copies get edited, but sometimes just one does, or neither. Only about half the embryos will lead to live births, and of those that do, many could contain a mixture of cells with edited DNA and without.
However, it would present obvious problems in humans. This is one reason that many scientists view such an experiment whether or not it has really occurred in China with scorn, seeing it more as a provocative bid to grab attention than as real science.
I kind of doubt it. But, Feng said, such problems may eventually be ironed out, and edited people will be born. I think it will be a reality. Unlike embryos, stem cells can be grown and multiplied.
The recipe goes like this: First, edit the genes of the stem cells. Second, turn them into an egg or sperm.Designer babies corrupt their unique characteristics. By creating a designer baby, you risk termination of embryos, creating a gap in society, possibility of damage to the gene pool, the genes often have more than one use, geneticists are not perfect, the loss of individuality, other children in the family could be affected by parent's decision, only the rich can afford it, and the baby has no choice in the matter.
Researchers think they can create designer babies, but while engineering works great for building bridges, it's much less desirable for designing societies. Creating designer babies who are free from disease and super athletic or smart may finally be around the corner.
But American society hasn't fully thought out the ethical implications for the. Experts debate whether genetic engineering of unborn children, also called designer babies, would lead to a healthier society or eugenics.
A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept.
However, the. 3 days ago · Some view the approach as offering the potential to eliminate genetic disease, while others see it as paving the way for designer babies and a new form of eugenics.