Experts in gene research suggest that our worst fears about gene editing will not come true because they are too difficult to implement. You see, one of the main concerns the public has about the CRISPR gene editing method is that IT can be used to create “designer babies” with an increased level of intelligence. At worst, it can give an unfair advantage to parents who can afford to improve their offspring. For example, a survey of residents of the American city of Pew in July 2018 showed that their greatest concern is that CRISPR “will only be available to the rich.”
They don’t have to worry, they are comforted by their three leading scientists in the field of gene editing. Intelligence is too complex to be designed, and that is good, because it is intelligence that will save us from the dangers of human arrogance.
Designer babies and CRISPR
In November, the Chinese scientist Heh Cisangkuy said that secretly used the tool to edit the genes to create a twin girls, immune to HIV. This caused alarm because it showed that the production of designer babies is not only impossible to stop — it is already happening.
But public concern about the creation of intellectual elites probably has no ground for reality. So scientists who published work last week in the New England Journal of Medicine believe. The article was written by George Daly, Dean of the Harvard school of medicine and two European experts in embryology, Robin Lovell-Badge and Julie Steffann.
“In the long run, our greatest defense against improper genome editing may be the inability to influence traits such as intelligence that result from complex interactions of multiple genes and environments,” they write.
We’ve linked over a thousand genes to human intelligence quotient or success in school. At this point, scientists don’t know what these genes are doing, and more importantly, gene editing tools haven’t yet reached the point of changing embryo genes in many places.
For the authors of the article such ignorance is bliss. They want gene editing to be used to eradicate genetic diseases in embryos — and believe that it is possible. Since serious congenital diseases, such as Huntington’s syndrome or cystic fibrosis, are often caused by specific DNA errors in individual genes, they can be corrected with CRISPR. They say that doing it in the Bud is the best way to get rid of the problem.
Daley and other scientists now want this kind of medicine to move forward. But it will be more difficult if gene editing is used rudely, as regulators will continue to ban it and public opinion will deteriorate.
In the case of the twins, He Jiankui said he had removed a gene called CCR5 to make them immune to HIV. Although He was in some ways the first, Daley and colleagues believe that it was a shameful study that violates the rules of ethics. He will always be remembered for his reckless disregard for widely-defined scientific, clinical, and ethical standards.
He is now under house arrest.
And this is only the beginning — because there are quite good reasons for changing embryos. For example, if a couple cannot have healthy children or does not want to transmit risky genes when trying to conceive a child with IVF. Be that as it may, CRISPR is used for purposes that the public considers disturbing. Most people are fine with this tool if it will eradicate the disease. But only 20% believe that using it to” improve ” a person — in particular, to increase the intelligence of offspring — is a good idea.
Fortunately for scientists, they don’t have to decide whether it’s good or bad to improve the intelligence of the embryo. They say it’s impossible, so there’s nothing to worry about.