Geneticist George Church on why gene-edited babies aren’t such a bad thing

[Editor’s note: Harvard geneticist George Church has come to the defense of Chinese researcher He Jiankui, who shook up the science world with his announcement this week that he has created the world’s first gene-edited babies. He was interviewed by ScienceInsider.]

Q: What do you think of the criticism being heaped on He?

A: I’d just as well not hang myself out to dry with someone I barely know, but I feel an obligation to be balanced about it. … But it seems like a bullying situation to me. …

Q: Do you think the experiment is unethical?

A: … At some point, we have to say we’ve done hundreds of animal studies and we’ve done quite a few human embryo studies. It may be after the dust settles there’s mosaicism and off targets that affect medical outcomes. It may never be zero. We don’t wait for radiation to be zero before we do [positron emission tomography] scans or x-rays.

Related article:  Debating the need for genetic engineering of humans—there's 'nothing special' about our DNA

Q: What about concerns that CRISPR will make unintended edits in the genome, so-called off-target effects?

A: I’m not saying they’ll never be an off-target problem. But let’s be quantitative before we start being accusatory. It might be detectable but not clinical. …

Q: There’s some worry that the backlash to He’s experiment will harm the field.

A: In the early days of gene therapies when there were far fewer preliminary studies, there were three deaths that set back the field. It may have just made us more cautious. And gene therapy is certainly back in force. And I don’t think these kids [the babies whose genomes He edited] are going to die.

Read full, original post: ‘I feel an obligation to be balanced.’ Noted biologist comes to defense of gene editing babies

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

2 thoughts on “Geneticist George Church on why gene-edited babies aren’t such a bad thing”

  1. Eugenics is not euthanasia. It does not require any harm to any living human person. Its central objective has always been painlessly to improve the hereditary health and capabilities of humans yet unborn. There are those who think crippling disability is an entitlement and that stupidity and criminality add to the spice of life, but victims will disagree. The applications of eugenics are the controversial aspects which need careful thought and discussion. Primum non nocere. “There is nothing ethically superior in condemning future generations to terrible medical conditions if it were possible safely to eliminate them” (Kenan Malik).

    As for SJW critics who nevertheless welcome the abortion of healthy, sentient and viable but unwanted babies, or who have no problem with unchecked private sperm donation, let them cast the first stone through their ideologically locked glass houses.

Leave a Comment

News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.

Send this to a friend