We May Soon See The World’s First Designer Baby
The World’s First Designer Baby Could Be Out There Right Now.
Many of us remember the uproar when cloning technology became a reality. It was February 22nd,1997, that the world learned of the first successful cloning of an animal with Dolly the sheep. Dolly was cloned at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, Scotland, where she lived until her death when she was six years old.
However, who remembers that in April of 2015 a team of scientists in China successfully modified a gene in an human embryo that was linked to a blood disease? Or barely one year later in April of 2016 when a 2nd team in china reported successfully editing the genes of human embryos to try to make them resistant to HIV infection?
Tools to edit DNA.
The tools to do this are called CRISPR-editing tools and can be described as the Swiss Army knife for genetic researchers. CRISPR, allows you magnify a particular place in the DNA sequence so that you can either cut out material or edit in new genetic information. As of 2015 this technology had become a standard tool in thousands of laboratories around the world.
Previous trans-formative technologies.
Over forty years ago the world’s first Invitro or test tube baby was born.Since that birth there have been over 5 million babies born from fertilization done outside of the mother’s womb.
With this CRISPR editing technology, the tools are available right now for researchers to genetically modify a human embryo, effectively creating a designer baby. It is not hard to imagine that if we allow this to happen ( we will not be able to stop it in every country) we could in several decades have millions of genetically modified humans and their offspring. Genetically modified traits are inheritable so all further generations would also be modified in the same way.
What traits would we chose to enhance? Options?
There are so many options of traits to try to modify or remove. With all the best intentions the technology is being used right now to remove disease from embryos such as what the Chinese teams have done. A human couple that could chose traits for their future child, may decide to change something that they do not like in themselves, such as a cleft chin or thin hair. They also may chose to make their designer baby girl smarter, taller and more beautiful. Options for designer baby boys may include stronger, taller and better at certain sports.
What about Governments?
Designer humans would likely have much lower healthcare costs, as practitioners would remove any genes associated with known diseases or physical abnormality. It would be tempting for governments to encourage this type of future citizen. For an example of government policy into reproduction we look to China, where due to overpopulation the government implemented a one child rule. This policy was enforced starting in 2013 and ran only until 2015 where it was abolished but it said to be responsible for avoiding the birth of 400 million babies.
It is easy to see how governments may want to set human genetic manipulation policies that seem to suit the countries best interest at the time. The concept or Eugenics and super soldiers soon comes to mind.
The CRISPR technology is spreading like wildfire and it is only a mater of time until someone, some where uses it to make a designer baby. This is the conclusion of Paul Knoepler, a biomedical scientist and author and the speaker in the Ted-Talk above. He has written a book entitled “GMO Sapiens” that looks interesting and is on my reading list for this month. I will let you know what I think.
If you have any comments on this technology or any other subject that we write about don’t be shy, lets hear it…
I have included another video below that explains the CSIPR technology and how it used to today.