Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thinking About Having a Child?

Shouldn't you first have your genome edited for clarity and errors? The CRISPR/Cas system seems to be making that possibility real. CRISPR (and writing out the acronymn likely won't help you understand it) is a prokaryotic immune system that works by editing the genomes of potential virus enemies, but its editing capabilities can be used for other purposes - see discussion in the Wikipedia link given above. In fact they already have been used to edit out a deleterious gene in mice.

People too carry some nasty genetic diseases, and the possibility of editing them out is being aggressively investigated by top genetics laboratories. Of course, if you are going to be editing genes to eliminate congenital blindness or Tay-Sachs disease, maybe you should take the opportunity to stick in some genes for high intelligence, good looks, athletic ability, etc., etc.

The age of gene customization is (nearly) on us, and that means that future humans will have some more powers previously attributed only to gods.

Tyler Cowen writes about CRISPR and its eugenic implications here, with numerous links. Stephen Hsu is here, with, among other things:

... Rumors are rife, presumably from anonymous peer reviewers, that scientists in China have already used CRISPR on human embryos and have submitted papers on their results. They have apparently not tried to establish any pregnancies, but the rumors alarm researchers who fear that such papers, published before broad discussions of the risks and benefits of genome editing, could trigger a public backlash that would block legitimate uses of the technology.

I think it is obvious that we are talking about what is potentially one of the most momentous developments in human history.