On November 25th of 2018, a very interesting birth announcement was made on YouTube to twin girls. Lulu and Nana had been born somewhere in China. Their parents were not the ones in the article announcing this.
It was just this guy sitting in a lab surrounded by equipment talking about sciency stuff, the guy’s, a bio physicist named Asian qui, previously of the southern university of science and technology in shenzhen, china and the smartypants science stuff that he was saying Was about how lu, lu and nana were the world’s? First, genetically engineered babies according to the doctor, when they were only a single-cell old, he and his team used CRISPR cast nine to edit their genome and what they did was they removed? This gateway in the DNA that allows HIV to an effective person, so he basically made these girls immune to HIV, not the worst thing you can do to a person.
The problem is, this was all done in secret, and this kind of thing is just not something that the medical community is really ready for, assuming the doctors telling the truth. Lulu and Nana are the first children born with deliberately engineered inheritable genes.
We have officially entered the age of genetically engineered people. Unsurprisingly, many medical experts, aren’t happy within days. Dr. Jin quiet study was immediately condemned almost universally and after months of debate and negative news stories, 18 leaders in the scientific and ethical fields have proposed a moratorium on implanting genetically engineered embryos, the one to be careful not to do a permanent ban, but they did Want to kind of curtail this sort of thing happening so that we can study – and you know, get an idea of how this is gon na affect things moving forwards.
They proposed a period of five years. They also suggested that a quote broad societal consensus should be attained before we start doing this kind of thing, which sounds great, but genetic engineering is right up there with climate change on the split the room meter, it also won’t, be easy.
Once people realize just how big a deal, this is because when you affect one person’s, DNA, it doesn’t just affect that one person it affects that person’s, children and their children, and on and on this Little snip of DNA could affect thousands of people over the years and we have to decide as a society if we’re ready to take over the job from nature of creating human beings, we’re gon na be hearing a lot About this in coming years, so let’s.
Just look and see how we got here in his announcement, dr. Jim CAI, compared the birth of Lulu and Nana to the birth of the first test-tube baby. Louise joy brown in 1978 in vitro fertilization was really controversial at the time and in some circles it still is, but in general the consensus toward IVF is softened over the years.
According to some estimates, at least 8 million people have been born after being conceived under glass, which is what in-vitro means, and certainly the families of those people are okay. With this technology, basic IVF procedure means combining a sperm and an egg in a petri dish before it’s.
Implanted Lulu and Nana were conceived this way. That part obviously is not controversial. The controversial part is that, while they were still a single cell, dr. Jin Chi and his team used CRISPR cast nine to edit a gene called ccr5.
I’ve covered CRISPR before on this channel, but let’s. Just do a quick primer, so basically single-celled bacteria, don’t, have an immune system. The way we do because they’re, just a single cell, but they do have a way of protecting themselves against viruses by snipping out little pieces of the viral DNA and inserting it into their own DNA that way, the next time the virus comes Around it knows how to beat it and the enzyme it uses to do.
This is called cast 9 in 2012 Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley and Emanuel. Sharp NTA of yuumei university in Sweden invented an easy way to trick the bacteria in an attacking pre selected genes and about that same time, Feng Shang of MIT in George church of MIT and Harvard figured out how to get the bacteria to operate on human cells.
Basically, we can now get these bugs to mutate. Babies. George Church, by the way, has recently used CRISPR to splice woolly mammoth genes in two elephants to try to bring back elephants and he actually thinks that he could bring back Neanderthals.
In the same way, I mean movies about this haven’t there. So, like so much in the body, the ccr5 gene does lots of things, one of which is that HIV gateway that I was talked about, which, by the way, if you didn & # 39, t know that HIV needed a gateway.
I’m right. There with you, this is news to me. In fact, using genetic mutation to protect people against HIV is not a new thing. There’s, something like 10 % of people in northern Europe that have this gene mutation.
It’s actually thought that this mutation also helped people to survive the bubonic plague way back in the day, so in places where the bubonic plague was especially bad. This mutation is especially concentrated, so yeh, and actually today, two people have been cured of AIDS by switching out bone marrow with those people that have this same mutation.
So this is the thing that naturally happens, and what dr. Jan CAI was basically trying to do was to pass this on to human babies through artificial instead of natural means. Hiv-Positive people actually have a lot of trouble getting fertility help in China, and this is one of the things that apparently motivated dr.
Jin Chi to help out Lulu and nan to be born because their father is HIV positive. So technically we could eliminate HIV and AIDS in a single generation. It sounds pretty great right. According to the doctor, his next target might be heart disease, something else we could happily live without, but Joey may be saying this all sounds so perfect and positive and in no way filling me with angst.
Something must be wrong here, and to that I say you know me well the first clue that something is wrong here is that this announcement was made on YouTube, not in a medical journal or through some kind of peer reviewed process like legit science and according to New scientists, somehow this secretly done with no oversight experiment, may have been flawed, possibly badly flawed.
The consequences did the children won’t be known for years now, but the study was so flawed that some people are already accusing dr. Jenkins negligence possible consequences to the rest of us. Well, that’s, something else.
It’s, a discussion that’s ongoing right now with lawmakers and experts and us the document that proposed the moratorium breaks down the reasons for this into four parts which I’ll, just kind of go through real, quick.
The first is technical considerations. Now CRISPR is an amazing tool. There’s, clearly a lot of stuff that we can do with it, but it’s still very new and where there’s still a lot, we still don’t know even people who really want to Do this in a really gung-ho about CRISPR, are concerned about the kind of experiments that dr.
Chen Kai’s been doing shoo crab metalli pod, for example, is somebody who’s done experiments on of different embryos that have not been implanted Unemployed is the key word here and even he thinks that what’s going on is dangerous.
He used the word premature for one thing: according to scientists who saw some of the slides of Lulu and Donna’s, DNA, it looks like they’re single-cell that he did. The genetic modification on may have already begun to replicate before he did the edit meaning that some of the ccr5 gene actually did get passed on.
So when different cells have different DNA, when they’re supposed to be similar, it’s. A condition called Messiah sysm and in the case of Lulu and Nana, this might just mean, hopefully, that the effect of this DNA editing might not be as strong, but Messiah sysm can have terrible consequences.
There’s, a whole host of genetic diseases that are caused by this kind of mishmash of DNA. So let’s just hope that this isn’t the case for Lulu banana. Another danger that they may face is that CRISPR casts 9 can often cut in the wrong place.
This has been seen in some mouse studies. Crispr is often called a genetic scalpel, but even scalpels can cut where they’re not supposed to the rate of errors when using CRISPR casts 9 has been considered to be more than what would happen through regular genetic mutation from DNA passed on by Parents, though it can be a little bit better than some environmental factors, the point of the matter is there’s still a lot.
We don’t, know about CRISPR, and there’s, still a lot of research that needs to be done. There are some scientific considerations that need to be addressed. You know well, Lulu and Nana actually be benefited by the ccr5 mutation.
Since the changes that have been made are inheritable, will this be passed on to their kids and how will this affect us as a whole species? With all these questions in the air, the genetic pioneer of Fang Shang actually said that the risks of knocking out the ccr5 gene outweigh the potential benefits.
Apparently knocking out. This gene can actually make somebody more susceptible to the West Nile virus or a more susceptible to death from flu, and this is true of other genes. There’s, a gene that makes you less susceptible to Parkinson’s, but removing it makes you more susceptible to Crohn’s, disease in schizophrenia, which seemed like two totally different things, but DNA.
The whole point is: can we confidently say that if we make these kinds of edits in the genes that there won’t be some kind of negative effect down the road? These are all questions that need to be answered, and many people say that dr.
Jin Chi neglected his responsibility as a scientist by not address seeing those concerns and just charging forward just with the interest of being. First, dr. Jane Chi has said before that he wants to be considered the father of genetic editing, so he wants to make a name for himself like Jonas Salk or Alexander Fleming, which is not the best reason to do genetic editing on someone.
So some argue that he basically did a surgery that wasn’t necessary. This falls under the medical considerations. Here you know Lulu and Nana were not at severe risk of infection. So did this really need to be done now? Other cases are different.
Of course, some doctors, aren’t, actually support doing genetic editing when both of the parents have a genetic condition and they don’t want to pass it on to their kids, and there are some other techniques that can be used to Produce the same effect, but it usually requires producing a whole lot of embryos and then just kind of like finding the ones that don & # 39.
T have that genetic problem that you’re trying to avoid. That obviously means creating a lot of embryos and then destroying them. But still some say that that’s, sort of more natural way of creating the embryos and instead of going in and actually cutting the genes as a safer way of doing it.
And then there’s, societal, ethical and moral considerations. There’s, a number of nightmare scenarios around genetic editing that exist in the literature and when I say literature I mean Netflix, countless films and TV shows from Blade Runner to x-men, have asked the question: how much can we change human beings and still Be considered a human being? How do we create Beauty without creating monsters? Back in the mid 90s, an interesting accident happened.
Doctors thought that they could actually help out infertile women by using the jelly in the eggs from fertilized eggs into what the doctors didn’t know is that the jelly that was donated actually has mitochondria in it.
Mitochondria has its own DNA, so the mitochondria was absorbed into the eggs and those eggs became fertilized about a dozen people were born before they realized this error and shut the program down. So these dozen or so people are special because they actually have DNA from three different donors and they remain genetically abnormal.
Now, as far as we know, they grew out to be perfectly functional in normal young adults, but then mitochondrial replacement therapy has actually been used to avoid passing on a genetic condition in at least one case.
So far, so we can do stuff like that clearly and not wreck the world as we know it, the question is: is it right to do it? Is it right to create embryos for the purpose of scientific experimentation, and where do you draw the line between preventing diseases and improving people, giving them special gifts and talents and abilities? Should we cure Down syndrome or autism or set minimum requirements for lean muscle, mass and IQ that last one isn’t even sci-fi evidence actually exists that people with the ccr5 mutation do better at school, so we’ve already bred for Brains, so what’s? Next Chinese scientists have already created tiny micro, pigs and swoll beagles with twice the normal muscle mass.
There are conspiracy theories out there that they’ve already created super soldiers. There’s, probably one behind you in ten years. We might all know somebody that has a niece or a nephew that’s, been genetically engineered in some way someday.
These people are actually gon na be in charge when they are. Are they gon na? Thank us or arrest us or vaporize us? So this is a frustrating topic for me because you know on one hand, of course, getting rid of things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s sounds amazing.
That would be a wonderful world to live in plus, if we perfected this technology, it could benefit us as well. People who are already born there are people who talk about using viruses to implant genetically modified DNA that could spread that DNA throughout our bodies, allowing us to take advantage of it.
While we’re still alive, but who says we have to stop there. I mean really: could i alter my genes so that I actually get a tan instead of bursting into flames that you’re spending 10 minutes in the Sun? That would be nice besides a little color and my skin really sets off my piercing blue eyes.
So honestly, on one hand, I’m kind of glad. Dr. Jim Chi took that first step. You know I mean you can only you can only experiment on petri dishes so long. Eventually, you got to actually do it in a human being, and the sooner we do that, the sooner I can get a tan and we can cure debilitating diseases.
No matter. You know Edward Jenner first came up with the inoculation for smallpox by testing it out on his gardeners son. It was risky and could have ended his life, but it worked and because of that, millions of lives have been saved.
So while the scientific can be is universally condemning dr. Jenkins actions, they’re, also just kind of watching with interest at the same time. Oh, this is terrible. Did it work, but I’m curious. What you guys think do you think this was out of line? Do you think he jumped too far ahead or do you think this is something we should be going ahead and working with trying out talked about in the comments? And while you’re talking in the comments all smart like if you’d, like to talk even smarter like then, you might want to check out the daily challenges feature on brilliant org.
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