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“A Chinese researcher recently disrupted the CCR5 gene, which builds a protein that acts as an entryway that HIV uses to gain entry to T-cells, allegedly creating the world’s first genetically engineered baby. Chinese officials moved swiftly to condemn the work, and rightly so. Gene-edited babies should probably always be prohibited, not because of fears of creating inequalities and advantaged “super babies,” but because of the reality that editing an embryo is not medically necessary. These modifications occur around conception rather than treating a suffering person—always involving introducing risk, and thus testing the age-old medical admonition of primum non nocere, meaning “first, to do no harm.”
I have argued previously that it is better to enforce national, rather than international, regulation of gene modification tools such as CRISPR-Cas9, since strong regulatory powers such as the FDA exist (swift action by the Chinese supports this claim). In fact, the FDA has so far chosen to regulate CRISPR technology as a drug, rather than a device, which gives it more control over specific applications and uses, while Congress excludes money in its spending bill from being used by the FDA to review applications for editing germ-line or heritable code. Nevertheless, there is no law in the U.S. that outlaws gene-edited babies.
I believe that most modern nations have adequate controls to regulate gene-modified babies, but it is important to explain why there will always be an ambiguous health benefit in creating GMO humans. Consider that disabling the CCR5 gene is not a new idea since U.S. biotech companies are already pursuing a strategy of using a form of gene modification to disrupt this gene to protect T cells from HIV infection. One important difference to this form of prophylactic gene therapy is that when applying it to living human patients a doctor can trade off the risk of the disease versus the tiny risks that gene modification tools could unintentionally alter other genes or damage functional DNA in a patient. In the case of a gene-modified baby, one is only adding the risk of inserting the CRISPR molecules, compared to a hypothetical health status of a person-to-be. The risk calculation is speculative at best.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Political leaders from all French parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined Jews and non-Jews in Paris’s Place de la Republique to condemn antisemitic acts."
"Eighty years ago tonight, thousands of Americans gathered in New York to rally behind the Nazi Party and its ideals. An Oscar-nominated short documentary retrieves footage of the event, but leaves out the context that gives it meaning."
"The PM has persuaded the religious-Zionist Jewish Home to partner with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. It makes cynical political sense for his interests, but what of Israel’s?"
"IFC’s series Documentary Now! began as an affectionately parodic tribute to the classics of nonfiction cinema. Its first episode, “Sandy Passage,” was a note-perfect evocation of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens..."
"Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom."
"Teens in the United States are coming of age at a time when digital technology is truly ubiquitous, where smartphones are all of our “constant companions.”"
"...the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic."
"Cool in the humanities isn’t that different from cool in other areas of cultural life, like planking, hotdog-legs photography, mason jar rehabilitation, and novels whose main character is a city."
"It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids..."
"Cape Town in South Africa is a foodie destination. Some people in its renowned restaurant industry are trying to spread the food wealth citywide."
"...for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. "
"After facing persecution in the former Soviet Union and a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Marya Zilberberg decides to put her Jewishness on display."