'Chinese scientist He Jiankui made a bold move last week when he published a video about a successful gene editing surgery on a human baby. After appearing in Hong Kong at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, Jiankui has been reported missing. Was he arrested by Chinese authorities? Was he murdered or perhaps abducted? His whereabouts are suddenly unknown. One report says he was placed under house arrest in Shenzhen after attending the conference, but another report from the China Morning Post tells otherwise. According to the Post, his former employer, the Southern University of Science and Technology, dismissed the detention claims, declining to elaborate on his whereabouts.
How will Jiankui and his research be used in the future? Will it be banned or used for specific purposes? Are perfect “disease-free” genetically engineered babies a possibility?
“Disease-free” genetically engineered babies a possibility?
Just a week ago, Jiankui publicly claimed to have successfully engineered the genome of a human baby. Now dubbed the “Chinese Frankenstein,” Jiankui is making his best pitch for the ethical use of genetic engineering on human babies. During invitro fertilization, Jiankui and a team of scientists introduced “proteins and instructions” to genetically engineer the DNA of twins so they would resist HIV infection from their father’s genome. The team of scientists used a DNA editing tool called Crispr-Cas9 to eliminate a gene called CCR5.
Jiankui claims “gene surgery” should be a tool to help heal families; however, the experiment opens up a Pandora’s Box. Will wealthy families soon be able to choose designer traits for their future children? How will human genetic engineering be regulated and enforced? Will there be a black market for genetic engineering of human babies or will the technology be embraced by future medical communities? If allowed, will altered DNA damage other genes and cause dangerous mutations that may be passed down to future generations?'
Read more: Has China arrested its scientist who claimed to have genetically engineered human babies?
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6 December 2018
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