Five couples lined up for CRISPR babies to avoid deafness



From the article:

"And the risks of CRISPR certainly haven’t been addressed. There is no proven way to ensure that gene-edited children won’t have unintended mutations, or to ensure that every cell in the children’s bodies will have the corrected gene.

“We continue to believe that proceeding with any clinical use of germline editing remains irresponsible at this time,” the November statement says."

If having children is so important, it would be better that people who are homozygous for the defect (both copies bad) are educated early in life that the best way now of having a normal child is to marry a person who at least carries one copy of the normal gene (and then have possible IVF screening if the mate were to have one bad copy himself/herself). Better than risk having a child who carries a really nasty genetic defect somewhere else in the genome because of CRISPR treatment and its (so far) lack of complete specificity. Perhaps there is a Catch-22 to a being homozygous defective deaf person - maybe because of prejudice it is very hard to find a mate who is not deaf, too, etc.



Yes, CRISPR + Humans at this stage is completely irresponsible. One of my favorite podcasts covered the story in some detail The Ethics of Genetically Editing Babies - The New York Times



I can foresee a molecular genetics arms race. Just as there are premarital tests for syphilis and other STD’s, perhaps someday the rich and concerned will want to have presumptive mates tested genetically, including whether the potential mate is a product of CRISPR treatment, etc. (if it leaves a genetic signature in the genome, etc. - pretty ignorant about its workings). Already mates select each other on a variety of social and physical criteria - so for the good or bad, I can imagine the same discrimination moving on to molecular characteristics. I once read an article on In Vitro Fertlization (IVF) predicting that at some point within the foreseeable future, ~everyone who could afford to reproduce that way would. By natural reproduction, there is something like a 2% to 3% level of genetic abnormal children produced. If IVF could eradicate that percent of deleterious outcomes, the article posed, who would want to reproduce the normal way and gamble on lifelong misery or early death, etc., for the desired offspring. I think the article also opined that IVF free for everyone would pay for itself by removing the attendant economic medical cost of caring for children suffering a genetic disease.

The danger of IVF is everyone selects certain favorite traits as ideal for their children, perhaps not realizing what they are co-selecting for at the same time, and also stamping out possibilities for helpful genetic variation as well as bad genetic variation, etc.

Related to all this is the “conveyor belt” theory of evolution. Humans are always figuring out ways to introduce “new stuff” at the “leading edge” of society and folks who figure out how to deal with such stuff really well become “rock stars” and undoubtedly enjoy a fair amount of reproductive success. Folks at the other end of the conveyor belt might not deal with the “new stuff” very well for whatever reasons and get dropped off the end. So I don’t think evolution is dead or stopped for humans - it’s still going on in “wonderful” ways as we make society more complex.



There are serious ethical considerations to be addressed in using gene editing techniques like CRISPR. The possibility of “designer babies” is frightening. However, if it can be done, there is someone somewhere who will do it. We are indeed on the edge of a “Brave New World.”