Babies Made to Order: How Did a Gene-Editing Professor Get Away With It?

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

A bioengineering professor at Rice University has gone where no man has gone before, and has done what no man was supposed to ever do by editing a gene out of human embryos. The twin babies were delivered recently.

Stat News reported that the father, who is HIV-positive, asked for the editing to be done so he wouldn’t pass on his infection to his children. And now that the genie’s out of the bottle, those connected with this professor and his work are trying to back-pedal their way out of it by calling for an investigation.

I predicted something like this would happen, and as the proverbial story goes, mankind will be hard-pressed to get the gene-editing genie back where it was. So, I predict again: This professor will be “investigated,” perhaps reprimanded (but maybe not), and then the gene-editing process he used, CRISPR, will bolt into the next dimension with the excuse of, since it’s already been done, we may as well forge ahead.

And, again, as I’ve already said several times, this move inevitably will create a Pandora’s Box of very real dangers that will create new problems, in addition to those CRISPR scientists have previously found.

CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, is at the most basic level a very precise way of tinkering with genes. Whereas gene editing was once a very imprecise and expensive process, scientists can now go into your DNA and essentially cut and paste it at specified places — which is what the Rice University professor did with the twin babies born without the gene that hosts HIV.

I ask you: Now that people around the world know this is possible, just how many other HIV-positive persons do you think will be pounding on this scientist’s door, demanding that their children be gene-edited too?

Will the scientists doing this tell them that earlier research has found that unintended gene mutations may result? Will they explain that they found more than 100 ADDITIONAL, unintentional deletions and insertions, and more than 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations when they did this on mice?

Will they tell parents of potential gene-edited children that DNA deletions could end up activating genes that should stay off, such as cancer-causing genes, or deactivating genes that should be on?

Or, mutations aside, how about asking an ethics question: Just how long do you think it will be before people start asking for, and convincing some renegade scientist to perform, gene editing for physical appearance or mental potential?

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper even listed genome editing on the list of "weapons of mass destruction and proliferation," so truly anything is possible.

There's no doubt that gene-editing technology is here to stay (unless something truly devastating cuts its popularity short). It certainly has the potential to do good, but it also has the potential to be misused and abused — especially since it's far cheaper than it used to be and becoming increasingly accessible to anyone with an inkling of interest.

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