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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
"After five years of war with the Islamic State, the biggest problem for the winners is coping with the losers. The aftermath has produced one of the world’s most perplexing postwar challenges..."
"What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change."
"...the pendulum of history never stops moving. Indeed, one of the few constants of history is unceasing change. While we seem to be heading in one direction, we must remember that there will surely be pauses, turns, and reversals."
""Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé," premiered early Wednesday and it was the fulfillment of all the ancestors' hopes and dreams. Beyoncé also dropped "Homecoming: The Live Album.""
"Seven in 10 adults ages 18 to 34 received financial support from their parents in the last year, including more than half of those in their early 30s. Almost three in five millennials said they couldn’t afford their lifestyles without the support."
"Social media influencers have helped turn public lands into tourist-infested swamps. And one cantankerous man is fighting back."
"One particular myth that attached itself to Ledger was that his death was somehow a result of immersing himself in the character of the Joker."
"In 2018, for the second year in a row, American publishers released fewer translated titles: 609 books were published, down from 650 in 2017 and the industry high in 2016 of 666."
"Egg freezing had become so routine among my single peers that when I hit 35, I never thought twice. Here’s what I wish I had known."
"When it comes to Passover cuisine, most home cooks know to avoid wheat, oats, rye, and other forbidden ingredients. But what consumers might not realize is just how much cotton they eat during the holiday."
"A masked figure looms over your recumbent body, wielding power tools and sharp metal instruments, doing things to your mouth you cannot see."
"Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people escaping slavery in Egypt. It is often referred to as the “festival of freedom.” My Passover in prison was at a place called the Wallkill Correctional Facility..."