It’s not uncommon to see people design or redesign their homes or offices — but now we may be on the verge of seeing humans genetically “design” their children before they’re born.
A Chinese scientist, He Jiankui (shown above) has made headlines this week — and evoked outrage from many — for claiming that he used Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) to make the first genetically edited babies.
The scientist claims that in an experiment, he removed from the embryos a gene that may be a factor in HIV infection, something the Chinese scientist says he’s seen many adults and children suffer from in his homeland.
His actions have drawn wide condemnation.
Twila Brase, president, president and co-founder of the Minnesota-based Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, thinks this scientist treads in a place that gives all sorts of people cause for concern.
“What we’re really talking about here is the possibility of making babies however people want to make babies, with certain genes and without certain genes, and certain genes edited and others left unedited,” Brase told LifeZette.
“We don’t know how this will go.”
Brase added that people and news outlets are trying to figure out to what extent is this true and how does the scientist actually define “editing.” “What did he actually do?” she reiterated.
When it comes to HIV, Brase says that protecting oneself means understanding how HIV is caught.
“You can get it through sharing needles, you can get it from unprotected sex, so there are a variety of places that it comes from, but they’re all very specific,” said Brase, who is also a registered nurse.
“So there are certainly ways to protect yourself but editing a gene is not the way to do it and not a good idea because nobody has any idea what will happen.”
'Deeply disturbing': NIH director criticizes scientist's claimed genetic editing of human embryo https://t.co/1nH7yJdQ7l
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) November 28, 2018
Chinese Scientist Faces Firestorm Over Genetic Editing https://t.co/KJErs1HhKv
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) November 28, 2018
Leading genomic scientists from around the world called for a halt to any clinical use of gene-editing in human embryos and sharply reprimanded a Chinese researcherhttps://t.co/7XILHsJPiA
— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) November 29, 2018
To put it another way, it’s unknown what the consequences are of editing a gene.
“What if that gene also has other properties that have now been edited as well and you just don’t realize it at the moment?”
Regardless, there will be people and special interest groups that say CRISPR could and should be used more to genetically edit babies as a means of allowing them to live a life that does not carry the risks others face.
In the minds of CRISPR supporters, the potential benefits would outweigh the concerns.
Even then, Brase warned of the dangers of trying to make the world the way one would like it to be and to engineer people’s lives the way one thinks lives should work.
“We aren’t God and we don’t know the unintended consequences of messing as it were the DNA of a human,” she stressed.
“It’s really important to look at the future and wonder what it would mean for people who chose not to be edited. Would they be allowed not to be edited? Would every baby that’s born have to be scrutinized in advance before it grows up to see whether it needs any editing before it can be born?”
Brase is not the only one to voice these concerns.
Americans United for Life (AUL), a pro-life law firm and advocacy group, is not pleased with the idea, and there were calls for a moratorium and an international summit on CRISPR near the end of 2015.
Chris Woodward, a reporter for American Family News and OneNewsNow.com, is based in Tupelo, Mississippi.