Gene editing of human embryos

By Jamie Metzl | 3 August 2017

Human eight cell embryo for IVF selection. (Credit: K. Hardy / Wellcome Images / CC BY-SA 4.0)

You may have seen today’s New York Times article describing how scientists have for the first time successfully edited genes in unimplanted human embryos.

As the article notes: “Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University, with colleagues in California, China and South Korea, reported that they repaired dozens of embryos, fixing a mutation that causes a common heart condition that can lead to sudden death later in life. If embryos with the repaired mutation were allowed to develop into babies, they would not only be disease-free but also would not transmit the disease to descendants…Much more research is needed before the method could be tested in clinical trials…but if the technique is found to work safely with this and other mutations…it could apply to any of more than 10,000 conditions caused by specific inherited mutations.”

Although this breakthrough is yet another step forward in a miraculous and ever-accelerating genetic revolution, it is only the beginning. Once technologies like IVF, embryo selection, induced stem cell egg production, and gene editing gain popular acceptance for preventing, treating, and eliminating disease, the door will be open for using these same technologies to help people live longer, healthier, and more robust lives and select an increasing number of their future children’s traits. Because this future has both the utopian potential to ease human suffering and the dystopian possibility of undermining our common humanity, I have been calling for a species-wide dislaogue on the future of human genetic engineering to help find the best way to optimize the tremendous positive potential of these technologies.

If you’d like to learn more, please have a look at my TechCrunch article from last year.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Jamie Metzl is a member of the World Health Organization expert advisory committee on developing global standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing and a former US National Security, State Department, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and United Nations official. His book Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity was released in April 2019. His website is Follow him on Twitter @JamieMetzl.

Are You Ready for the Genetic Revolution? | Jamie Metzl | TEDxPaloAlto

Homo Sapiens 2.0: The Future of Human Genetic Engineering – Jamie Metzl (Atlantic Council)

This Is How We Will Live Longer & Healthier | Jamie Metzl | TECH | Rubin Report

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