China Leads the World in Genetic Studies
In 2015 Chinese scientists managed to successfully edit the genes of a human embryo in a lab dish. Since then, we’ve seen rapid advancements in the processes that are being used to genetically modify plants, livestock, and fish as we’ve learned to beef-up specific characteristics to entice human consumption. However, the safety of these GMO’s or Genetically Modified Organisms for human consumption has been a huge topic of concern for communities of “health conscious” individuals.
CRISPR, a Molecular Pair of Scissors
The development of a “molecular pair of scissors,” called “CRISPR,” has brought the feasibility of editing human code, much closer. However, as we inch closer to conceptualizing practical and ethical uses for this technology ethics groups as well as notable scientists, and many of the major media outlets have remained on their toes.
November 25th, 2018 marks the date that He Jianku, of Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, defied international ethics standards and laws, to reveal a startling report. Within this report, trials are dated from as early as March of 2018 with details pertaining to a unique set of twins who were named, Nana and Lulu.
Nana and Lulu
Nana and Lulu are the world’s first genetically modified “CRISPR” babies. Modifications were made to a gene known as CCR5, which He hopes will make Nana and Lulu resistant to HIV, cholera, and smallpox.
It appears that he may have acted against the advice of peers and superiors with the notion that if his experiment proves to yield positive results, it will win him notoriety in the scientific community for pioneering a scientific breakthrough. However, even if He’s experiment is a success, there are still some glaring moral and ethical implications that are difficult to ignore.
The scientific community is in an uproar over the way this young scientist chose to exercise his own ethical moral judgment. Many fear that if He is not publicly sanctioned and reprimanded for ignoring the ethical moral standards set in place, to protect the scientific community and the general population alike, it will lead to further “self-justification” for future scientific experiments. Critics cite a recent example of the dangers of this type of “self-justified” mentality as a small group of scientists decided to resurrect the “horsepox” virus, without regards for the necessary red tape required to ensure compliance for the purpose of a safe and practical outcome.
There is still so much unexplored gray area, in the study of human genetics, that there is no way to predict the affects of even minor alterations in human code. Experts have warned that a lack of oversight in conducting these types of trials, could have adverse, unpredictable, and irreversible affects that could be carried on for generations. Moral and ethical standards, alone, are there to keep us moving slowly, cautiously, and precisely so as to prevent a catastrophe.
Good Intent or Irresponsible?
Although He may have had good intent, several reports cite his efforts as being “amateur,” and “irresponsible“. His reports were not peer reviewed. His consent forms were not up to standard and read more like business contracts that would allow him the rights to marketing materials using the images of Nana and Lulu. Apparently, he did not do a very thorough job. Over all, experts seem to think that He’s work was pretty careless and set a bad example for his peers.