The first genetically modified humans, a set of twin baby girls, who underwent gene surgery to become HIV resistant. A new breakthrough in scientific advancement brought along a controversial debate to the table. This distinctive accomplishment by He Jiankui, a researcher who proclaims he was the first to successfully modify a human baby.
How exactly does it work?
In a series of YouTube videos, He Jiankui explained his reasoning and use of technology. He clarified that his intention was not to be able to create designer babies, but to protect children from debilitating and lethal diseases with the use of technology available to use.
He explains that these babies are just everyone else; the only difference is that they underwent a gene surgery early in life for safety. An embryologist Qin Jinzhou, at the He Jiankui lab explained in one of the videos the technology that they used. ” A fine needle is used to inject the sperm in the egg, in a normal IVF, then another needle is used to inject the Cas9 protein with the instructions for the surgery.
By the time the egg becomes 3-4 cells, the gene surgery has already finished. The gene CCR5 was the one chosen for the first surgery, since it can naturally protect against HIV. This gene was found in more than 100 million Europeans, with such ability. Three years of research in the preclinical showed them that the CCR5 (surgery) gene was safe and effective.” The embryologist was barehanded during the process, and explained that they take a seven-step process to disinfect their hands for the surgery. Being barehanded, according to him helps get a feel of the equipment better, and have more control of how far the pipettes are moved. Also, because the embryos need to be at a specific temperature and being handled barehanded, ensure that the body heat keeps them warm.
The babies’ parent’s Mark and Grace underwent the IVF treatment, then scientist He Jiankui explains that their DNA was modified, using the CRISPR-Cas9 instrument to protect against HIV. The father of the girls is HIV positive, and according to many other researchers they were persuaded by the scientist twist of words to allow him to genetically modify their unborn daughters at the time.
How did others with scientific background react?
The advice of experts warned He Jiankui against conducting his work in modifying DNA, as genetically modifying embryos can come with indefinite complications in the future for the children. Controversy multiplied after the evening of the Second International Summit on Human Genome, when He announced a second pregnancy using the same technology. He then went into hiding, and the purposes of the meeting inviting him went down the drain, of slowing down his ambition and make him think about possible consequences.
Robin Lovell-Badge of the UK research facility, “Francis Crick Institute”, explained that everyone who was told about the project beforehand had been against it. According to Lovell-Badge, the scientist fully believed he was doing something good, but his ethics were as flawed as his science. He for example, did not have enough information on the mutation-Delta 32- that he was introducing to the babies. This mutation can increase the risk of the West Nile Virus and Influenza, while trying to protect against HIV. Lovell believes this sensitive information may not have been explained to the families of the babies, as there is a great risk for Influenza in China. The stigma against HIV in China seems to be what drove the scientist forward, even though there was no clinical need, since there are effective procedures for preventing HIV transmission from parent to offspring.
How was he able to succeed this ambition?
According to China’s Tongji University professor Zhu Dake, He’s work is due to the Chinese way of only thinking about success. “The political and legal landscape in China doesn’t only take legal and ethical paths to achievement, as long as the end result leads to success”, he explains. There are a few low-level laws concerning gene editing on human embryos in China, as it is, and the flaw is none depict punishment for violating them.
Understanding this, He Jiankui used the Chinese cultural prejudice against HIV to his advantage. He exploited the father’s burdensome shame, plus his desire for being a father to accomplish his goal of being the first at a scientific breakthrough with gene therapy on a human embryo. He manipulated the societal expectation of having to carry on the lineage, to get the agreement necessary for carrying out his experiments.
What issues are being faced at the moment? Possible future experiments?
Since the technology arose, people worry about what gene therapy and modification can imply to the disparities present in the world. Marcy Darnovsky, an executive director for Center for Genetics and Society, a nonprofit social justice organization, argues against human embryo editing. She debates the ban should be called for immediately in all countries. She says, ” Racism and other socioeconomic disparities can increase radically, especially with this technology. It is possible that this advancement can increase the disparities and beliefs of some being superior to others.”
Cite this essay
The first genetically modified humans a set of twin baby girls who. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-first-genetically-modified-humans-a-set-of-twin-baby-girls-who-example-essay