Genetic Engineering Of Babies

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ABSTRACT

Much of offspring is often affected by HIV, smallpox and cholera, this has led to a team at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen to recruit couples to allow them to genetically engineer their babies. They have planned to eliminate a gene called CCR5 (a gene involved in allowing HIV to invade cells, which is how a virus infects a host) in hopes of rendering the offspring resistant to HIV, smallpox, and cholera. He Jiankui one of the Southern University and Technology engineered the DNA of seven embryos being used for fertility treatment, so far resulting in the birth of one set of twin girls (Lulu and Nana). After a normal pregnancy, the mother gave birth to the two girls healthy girls that were few weeks old in November with the father being HIV positive.

INTRODUCTION

Genetically engineered babies are the result of decades of advancing In Vitro Fertilization technology (IVF), which is the process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and the embryo will then be transferred to the uterus. Once scientists discovered how to create babies in the lab, embryo editing to produce a healthy GMO baby (also referred to as GM baby) was perhaps a natural next step. Scientists saw the potential to not simply optimize genes for disease prevention, but also to choose aesthetics and personality traits. Dr. He claims to have targeted and disabled a particular gene in HIV, a particular strain of HIV. In targeting that gene, the hope is you produce a baby who is resistant to HIV, and in this case, he did modify the embryo—two of them in fact. According to his report, one of the twin girls appears to have been made resistant to this particular strain of HIV and the other one probably not. He also reported in Hong Kong that he created another pregnancy with a third modified embryo.

HONG KONG (AP) — A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born, this month who’s DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have — an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing tool that has been touted as breakthrough technology that can help scientists treat or maybe even cure genetic diseases. The technology gives researchers the ability to change an organism’s DNA, so they can add remove or change certain genetic material.Though the technology has been praised for its potential to cure diseases, it has raised serious ethical questions among the scientific community in regards to embryonic DNA editing.

The Lulu and Nana controversy refers to the two Chinese twin girls born in mid October 2018 , who had been genetically modified as embryos by the Chinese scientist He Jiankui. The twins are believed to be the first genetically modified babies. The girls’ parents had participated in a clinical project run by He, which involved IVF, PGD and genome editing procedures in an attempt to edit the gene CCR5. CCR5 encodes a protein used by HIV to enter host cells, so by introducing a specific mutation into the gene CCR5 Δ32 He claimed that the process would confer innate resistance to HIV (En.wikipedia.org, 2019).

Evidence suggests, however, the procedure was unnecessary, is unlikely to provide benefit and could even cause harm. Although the father of Lulu and Nana was HIV positive, it is unlikely that he would have passed this disease to his children using standard IVF procedures. The children born of genome editing are genetic mosaics with uncertain resistance to HIV and perhaps decreased resistance to viral diseases like influenza and West Nile. This is because the CCR5 gene that He disabled plays an important role in resistance to these diseases (Françoise Baylis, 2019).

METHOLOGY

He Jiankui’s human gene-editing clinical experiment was conducted without public discussion in the scientific community, it was first made public on 25 November 2018 when MIT Technology Review published a story about the work, based on documents that had been posted earlier that month on the Chinese clinical trials registry. He presented the work on 27 November at the International Human Genome Editing Summit in Hong Kong. The experiment had recruited couples who wanted to have children in order to participate, the man had to be HIV-positive and the woman uninfected The couples were recruited through a Beijing-based AIDS advocacy group called Baihualin. He took the sperm and eggs from the couples, performed in vitro fertilization with them and then edited the genomes of the embryos using CRISPR/Cas9. The editing targeted a CCR5 gene that codes for a protein that HIV-1 uses to enter cells. He tried to create a specific mutation in the gene, (CCR5 Δ32), that few people naturally have and that possibly confers innate resistance to HIV-1. He used a preimplantation genetic diagnosis process on the embryos that were edited, where three to five single cells were removed and the editing was checked. He then offered the parents the choice of using edited or unedited embryos.

RESULTS

It was found out that He Jiankui modified the genome of human embryos for seven couples using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology which resulted in the pregnancy of two of these embryos (the twins, Lulu and Nana), one of the twin was made resistant to the strain of HIV but the other twin might have not been resistant to it. The twin girls were born by mid-October 2018.

DISCUSSION

It was proven that disabling the CCR5 gene was completely unnecessary because there are methods used to wash the sperm to make sure the baby is born without the virus and also the gene plays an important role in resistance of viral diseases such as influenza and West Nile and cancer. The experts say that there are chances of unintended mutations caused by the CRISPR process. The studies also show that altering embryos and germline modification for reproductive use is illegal. The United States restrict the use of germline modification and puts it under the regulation of NIH and FDA that will only provide support for human gemline modification for serious condition (En.wikipedia.org, 2019). Bioethicist Ronald Green stated that although the technology was “unavoidably in our future”, he foresaw “serious errors and health problems as unknown genetic side effects in ‘edited’ children” arise. He warned against the possibility that “the well-to-do” could more easily access the technologies (Maria Online, 2019).

The (NIH) of United States announced a statement on November 28, 2018 signed by its Director Francis S. Collins, condemning He Jiankui and his team for intentionally flouting international ethical norms by doing such irresponsible work, and criticizing that He’s ‘project was largely carried out in secret, the medical necessity for inactivation of CCR5 in these infants is utterly unconvincing, the informed consent process appears highly questionable, and the possibility of damaging off-target effects has not been satisfactorily explored(‘He Jiankui’, 2019).

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has taken what it clearly regards as a brave new step, it has openly endorsed the use of genome editing to engineer the traits of future children and generations. The council’s report, Genome editing and human reproduction: social and ethical issues, asserts that such a move could be “morally permissible” under certain circumstances. In effect, it argues that the creation of genetically modified human beings should proceed after a few bioethics-lite boxes are checked off.

Genetically modified babies given go ahead by UK ethics body.The report’s conclusion flies in the face of a widespread global agreement that heritable genetic modification should remain off-limits, a commitment reflected in the laws of many nations, a binding European treaty, several international declarations, and numerous public opinion surveys

Unfortunately, a number of scientists and bioethicists, especially in the United States, have recently reached conclusions similar to the Nuffield council’s. But their reasoning has been quite different. Until now, proponents of heritable genetic modification have typically argued that if it is shown to be safe, it should be allowed only as a medical matter, only to prevent the births of children with serious genetic diseases, only if no alternatives are available, and certainly not for enhancement or cosmetic purposes.

The report recognises that heritable genetic modification cannot be understood as medicine: there is no sick person in need of treatment or cure. It doesn’t try to justify heritable genetic modification as a way of preventing the transmission of serious genetic disease, it acknowledges that this can be accomplished with existing reproductive procedures such as the embryo screening technique known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

These points are usually raised as part of the case that existing prohibitions on heritable genetic modification should be maintained and strengthened. After all, if the medical justification is tenuous at best, and if the technology isn’t needed to allow carriers of seriously deleterious genetic variants to have genetically related and unaffected children, why would anyone consider an irreversible experiment in manipulating embryonic genes?

A modernist

Modernists rejected all thoughts of the spiritual world, miracles and supernatural powers because they believed that these thoughts or believes were inconsistent with science, their worldviews were optimistic for the future which included science and technology, they believed that science and technology would lead to great progress towards better life, they also saw this as the better way to discover new ways of making art. They believed in reasoning and progress. Because of the worldviews they have, they would promote the genetic engineering of babies but relying on reasoning and progress, they would strongly believe that this process is the future, the way to better life.

I am for the worldview of the modernists that states that science and technology are the future, they enable a chance of the world to discover new ways of making and or improving things.

A post-modernist

A post-modernist is a person that is involved in a post-modernist movement in arts that set cultural tendencies and is associated with cultural movements. Postmodernists would argue that there is no fundamental basis for having more access to truth, accept that those who have power, privilege and the means are in a position to dictate the nature of this argument, and how many truths are more important and valid than others. This paradigm was introduced because modernism that was thought to oppress the disadvantaged and its reason and progress were dismissed. They strongly believed that the truth and morals were relative and that there is no big story about history and no answers to big questions of life and experiences and feelings are important. They would also promote Dr He Jiankui process because they have a view that says those who have the privilege, power and means should dictate the nature as long as there are truths involved, and in Dr He Jiankui’s report he did state that the two twins were healthy and that his process succeeded because one of the twins was resistant to the strain of the HIV, this statement was also backed up by expert scientists.

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As a science learning student, I also believe that there no fundamental basis for having more access to truth that would result in other peoples proves to be shut out, I believe that those who have the power and privilege to improve nature should be given the platform to experiment with things that would only result in the truth (expected results)

An evolutionist

An evolutionist is a person that believes in evolutionism, evolutionism was used to describe the belief that organisms deliberately improved themselves through progressive inherited change such as orthogenesis, it is a term that seeks to explain every aspect of the world in which we live. It encompasses a wide variety of topics, from astronomy to chemistry to biology. Its fundamental teachings teach that there were different stages in the evolution of our universe. There are two types of evolutionists in this world, the theistic evolutionists and the atheistic evolutionists. Theistic evolutionists are those who have managed to reach a compromise between two very distinct world-views: creationism and evolutionism and atheistic evolutionists made the ultimate conclusion that everything that is experienced is the result of a process of what might be termed ‘self-creation’ which was proposed by the new atheists Lawrence Krauss as unscientific nonsense. Because of these worldviews, an evolutionist would reject that theories of other scientists that oppose this project done by Dr He, they would believe that the genetic engineered twins will adapt and improve themselves through progressive inherited change.

I strongly believe in the evolutionism, I believe that people and that’s are able to adapt to the environment they are introduced to, so the engineered babies might also in future produce healthy living babies that pose little or no harm to the environment.

A young-earth creationist

A young-earth creationists belief (YEC) is based on religion, they believe in the inerrancy of certain literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis. They are against evolutionary science, they claim that it is the cause of ethical and moral failings, they paint it as being dangerous and anti-religion.The bible reads in 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 all Scripture is infallibly true and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness to the end, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, this in simple means that science is the work of fallible humans while the Bible is the infallible word of God. Creationists who believe in a created earth that doesn’t conflict with science are called Old Earth creationists, which sometimes includes believers of theistic evolution despite acceptance of evolution. Young Earth creationism is mostly specific to Christianity and occasionally Judaism. The YEC would be against the genetic engineering of babies because they are against evolutionary science, while the old earth creationists would give it a go since they accept evolution.

I am against the belief of the YEC that claims that science is the cause of ethical and moral failings when it has done more good than bad on this planet, people’s lives have been saved or made better because of science.

My world view

I believe that genetic engineering has advanced the understanding of many theoretical and practical aspects of gene function and organization. Through recombinant DNA techniques, bacteria have been created that are capable of synthesizing human insulin, human growth hormone, alpha interferon, a hepatitis B vaccine, and other medically useful substances. Plants may be genetically adjusted to enable them to fix nitrogen, and genetic diseases can possibly be corrected by replacing dysfunctional genes with normally functioning genes (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019). Because of these advancements, I am for the genetic engineering of babies, I believe that if one has the privilege and powers to help improve nature with results that are true or expected should be given the opportunity to help. Like the evolutionists, I believe that anything can evolve in such a way that it adapts and improves its wellbeing, reducing risks of harm to the environment., with that being said, I am not against the genetic engineering of Lulu and Nana because they will also evolve and adapt to nature/ the environment so the future generation will not be in any harm or the risks will be less or regarded as humanly normal risks. Although there might be people who misuse this application, I believe that there should be a strict regulation of NIH and FDA that will only provide support for human gemline modification for serious condition.

For example, in the same Pew survey, when asked about the moral acceptability of gene-editing techniques intended to give healthy babies a reduced risk of disease, only 28 percent of Americans consider the application acceptable, compared with 30 percent who say it is unacceptable and 40 percent who are not sure. Notably, among the one-third of Americans who can be classified as highly religious, only 15 percent consider such applications morally acceptable (see the figure below). When asked separately if such an application meddled with nature and crossed a line that should not be crossed, 64 percent of highly religious Americans agreed with the statement.

For many religious Americans, gene editing is likely closely associated with past debates over embryonic stem cell research and fetal tissue research. In these controversies, Christian leaders mobilized opposition to government funding by framing research as a violation of religious teachings. From a traditional Christian perspective, human life begins at conception and is created in God’s image. Embryos are considered to be divinely created human beings. When scientists destroy or alter human embryos, they take on the role of God, violating divine will. Therefore, traditional Christians believe that embryo research is morally wrong and that if it is funded by the government using tax revenues, such funding makes all Americans complicit in destroying human life. In the Pew survey, for example, among those who said gene editing was morally unacceptable, more than one-third of responses made reference to changing God’s plan or violating his will.

But as various survey findings indicate, it is not just strongly religious Americans who have moral reservations about gene editing. Even among nonreligious Americans, 17 percent say that gene editing to give babies a much reduced risk of disease is morally unacceptable, and 37 percent say they are unsure. In a follow-up question, more than one-quarter of nonreligious respondents say they oppose gene editing to improve the health of a baby because it would be meddling with nature and cross a line that should not be crossed. When asked more specifically if saving a baby’s life required testing on human embryos or altering the genetic makeup of the whole population, about half of all Americans say that such scenarios would make the application less acceptable to them (see the figure above). A 2016 survey conducted by Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health finds even stronger levels of reservations. In this case, when asked about changing the genes of unborn babies to reduce their risk of developing certain serious diseases, 65 percent of Americans said that such an application should be illegal. More than 80 percent said the same when asked about gene editing to improve intelligence or physical traits.

Scientists, philosophers and science fiction authors have been discussing designer babies since the 1930s. However, the issues they have been discussing have remained theoretical because of the difficulty in getting genes to do what they want. The new technology of genome editing, known as CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), which makes possible precise modifications of the genetics of organisms, changes things dramatically. Genetic modification of humans now looks all too possible.

Researchers and corporations are rushing to investigate — and hopefully exploit — the potential of this new technology to modify human beings genetically. Many of the proposed applications would involve modifying patients’ somatic cells (any cell of the body except sperm and egg cells) in the hope of curing, or at least ameliorating, particular diseases and genetic disorders, thus eliminating the need for a lifetime of medical and drug treatment. Such uses of CRISPR/Cas9 would hold tremendous promise. However, they are not my concern here. Some scientists have been quick to tout the potential of this new technology as a possible “cure” for some forms of infertility and to prevent various genetic diseases affecting future individuals. These hypothetical techniques would entail editing the genome of human embryos of stem cells, a practice currently outlawed in the UK that might then be coaxed into developing into sperm and eggs. What makes such hypothetical uses of genome editing especially controversial is that the genetic modification could affect the germline of the individuals who were brought into existence. Should something go wrong, multiple generations would be at risk. The discussion of the therapeutic potential of germline modification is in many ways a distraction. The real potential of CRISPR/Cas9 lies elsewhere.

EVALUATION

There are already means to allow affected individuals to have healthy children. In particular, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) allows doctors to choose which of a number of embryos created outside the human body to implant into a woman’s womb in order to ensure that a child is born without particular undesirable genes. Only when a couple is unable to produce viable embryos that do not carry genes for a disorder using their own gametes would there be any grounds for attempting to cure affected embryos by editing their genomes. Even in such cases, couples could always have children using donor sperm and/or donor ova. Similarly, individuals who are unable to produce viable gametes are able to use donor gametes to create embryos and secure a pregnancy. Rather than a cure for a disease, then, genome editing would function solely as a means to satisfy the preferences of couples to raise children who were their genetic offspring. As seen in the analysis of He Jiankui’s gene-edited babies. By trying to make the babies resistant to HIV, He might have greatly increased susceptibility to infections by West Nile virus or influenza. One cannot help but marvel at the success of the marketing of reproductive medicine, which has brought us to the point where it could seem reasonable to prefer a child who had been genetically modified rather than a child who was related to someone other than his or her social parents.

What germline modification could do that existing technologies cannot is produce embryos with particular genes associated with desirable traits. If scientists can find genes that are associated with above-species-typical traits for example, higher intelligence, longevity, concentration or memory CRISPR/Cas9 will allow them to insert these genes into embryos. In theory, at least, the CRISPR/Cas9 system would allow parents to insert genes for as many desirable traits as they liked into the genome of their child.

Trait selection and enhancement in embryos raises moral issues involving both individuals and society. The safety of the procedures used for preimplantation genetic diagnosis is currently under investigation, and because this is a relatively new form of reproductive technology, there is by nature a lack of long-term data and adequate numbers of research subjects. Still, one safety concern often raised involves the fact that most genes have more than one effect. For example, in the late 1990s, scientists discovered a gene that is linked to memory (Tang et al., 1999). Modifying this gene in mice greatly improved learning and memory, but it also caused increased sensitivity to pain (Wei et al., 2001), which is obviously not a desirable trait. Beyond questions of safety, issues of individual liberties also arise. For instance, should parents be allowed to manipulate the genes of their children to select for certain traits when the children themselves cannot give consent? Suppose a mother and father select an embryo based on its supposed genetic predisposition to musicality, but the child grows up to dislike music. Will this alter the way the child feels about its parents, and vice versa? Finally, in terms of society, it is not feasible for everyone to have access to this type of expensive technology. Thus, perhaps only the most privileged members of society will be able to have ‘designer children’ that possess greater intelligence or physical attractiveness. This may create a genetic aristocracy and lead to new forms of inequality (‘Genes and Identity: Human Genetic Engineering | Learn Science at Scitable’, 2019)

CONCLUSION

The goal of the genetic alteration was to confer resistance to HIV by modifying the CCR5 gene (the protein doorway by which HIV enters human cells), the goal was achieved as it was seen in He’s data that was looked over and said probably be accurate by George Church.

Human germline gene editing would constitute inherently unsafe human experimentation, putting any resulting children at extreme risk of harm and effectively irreversible genetic changes. It would distort family and other relationships by encouraging notions of human beings as biologically perfectible artifacts. It could all too easily lead to a future society of genetic “haves” and “have-nots,” with new forms of inequalities and biological discrimination on top of already existing ones.

To be sure, even though complex traits such as intelligence, athletics, and musicality cannot be selected or designed, there will be opportunists who will try to offer these traits, even if totally premature and unsupported by science. Like Stephen Hsu, the co-founder of Genomic Prediction who said about his offer to test embryos for polygenic risk, the risk of a disease based on multiple genes: ‘I think people are going to demand that. If we don’t do it, some other company will.’ And also He said: ‘There will be someone, somewhere, who is doing this. If it’s not me, it’s someone else.’ People need to be protected against this irresponsible and unethical use of DNA testing and editing.

Science brought incredible progress in reproductive technology, but didn’t bring designer babies one step closer. The creation of designer babies is not limited by technology, but by biology: The origins of common traits and diseases are too com Today scientists are making rapid advances in our knowledge of the human genome and how to modify and alter genes. Using PGD, parents are able to select specific embryos to ensure a certain sex, prevent disease, or produce a match to cure a sibling. However, someday this technology might be used to select eye color or even the intelligence of your child. Many fear that this could have serious consequences on our society. If everyone could design their own baby, their would be no individuality because everyone would be almost exactly the same. It could also increase the gap between classes. Those who can’t afford to design their baby will become an underclass. Like in the movie GATTACA, a superior race could be created and intertwined to modify the DNA without introducing unwanted effects.

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Genetic Engineering Of Babies. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/genetic-engineering-of-babies/
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Genetic Engineering Of Babies [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2022 Jul 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/genetic-engineering-of-babies/
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