Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos

David Cyranoski and Sarah Reardon report:

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using ‘non-viable’ embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

“I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale,” says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.”

There were too many off-target mutations, but the Chinese attitude seems to be if at first you don’t succeed…

…there are reports that other groups in China are also experimenting on human embryos.

The article is interesting throughout, for instance:

Huang says that the paper was rejected by Nature and Science, in part because of ethical objections; both journals declined to comment on the claim (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its research editorial team.)

There is more here.  And Carl Zimmer wrote an explainer on it.


The same thing will happen as happened with the first IVF baby.

People will have all sorts of ethical objections and hem and haw about it.
And then the first genetically modified human baby will be born, and everyone will shut up and the controversy will go away.

Ethical objections to IVF have become lower profile, but they haven't gone away.

Well, they certianly aren't stopping anyone from legally obtaining IVF treatment, which is all the matters.

Yeah, if anything it seems unethical to *not* research this.

I, for one, welcome our new super human overlords.

. . . our excellent new super human overlords.

You mean the Chinese?

Overlords? These children will be anything but overlords. Parents will fall into "my child is special" and go full american tiger-mom on them. They'll take arts, sports and creative writing classes until exhaustion. You can expect competitive surgeons and lawyers, not overlords.

Go China! I wish I could help with the research + experimentation. I have a BME degree :)

Once there is a living population of GM humans, it would be extremely racist to oppose their life and existence.

And, hope GM humans feel the same.

Why wouldn't they? Are they going to be taught that they are superior and separate from rank humanity?

And if they are, does that make them any worse than the narcissists in power today?

Somehow, this post relates to the previous one. I just don't know how.

It's technically possible to clone a neanderthal. Just need a human egg, and a woman willing to carry it to term.

It's China, so for certain values of "willing."

How would you know?

There've been a number articles in the past year or two about it. Cloning technology is pretty well developed for mammals. So cloning a homind would technically be feasible. Since humans and neanderthals interbred we already know that a human female can carry a neanderthal fetus. Plus we have lots of really well preserved neanderthal DNA.

"I say this should make us more pessimistic about dysgenics, and more pessimistic about the likely prospects for civilization in the future. Ideally we would like to think that once brains reached a critical threshold, all sorts of good things started happening."
~ Prior Post

Sounds like an endorsement of eugenics aimed at larger brains!

Just as soon as we get past the 'bump in the road' that is the 'Nazi connection' -

And if American Cold War history is any guide, the proponents of eugenics just need a catchy slogan, like 'bomber gap' or 'missile gap,' to step their way into a much better world of their dreams.

Especially as those dreams would be based on as much reality as those 'gaps' -

'The missile gap was the Cold War term used in the US for the perceived superiority of the number and power of the USSR's missiles in comparison with its own. This gap in the ballistic missile arsenals only existed in exaggerated estimates made by the Gaither Committee in 1957 and in United States Air Force (USAF) figures. Even the contradictory CIA figures for the USSR's weaponry, which showed a clear advantage for the US, were far above the actual count. Like the bomber gap of only a few years earlier, it was soon demonstrated that the gap was entirely fictional.'

Huang says that the paper was rejected by Nature and Science, in part because of ethical objections; both journals declined to comment on the claim (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its research editorial team.)

What precisely is the ethical objection? Either the foetus is human or it is a clump of tissue. They would not have had an ethical problem if they had done this on a benign tumor. And isn't that pretty much what the Left claims an embryo is?

No, the Left insists that an embryo is a "patriarchal tumour" foisted on an oppressed woman…




Back to Tumblr with you!

religious right also opposes it.

The left-wing version of the Bush era Council on Bioethics will increasingly rear its head in these debates.

This is why bioethics is a largely pointless discipline. If the technique like CRISP can be made to work, they will be used. Full stop. The only real question is how long it will take European and American researchers to join in.

There have been about 57 million abortions since 1973, when Roe vs Wade was first enacted. You'd think the liberal scientists at Nature, who are completely comfortable terminating the lives of unborn babies, wouldn't have any problems with editing the genome of those same babies in the name of scientific research and improving the health and well-being of future generations. Then again, that would require them to possess a consistent set of ethical/moral guidelines, something which ideologues (especially those of the leftist variety) tend to lack.

Maybe the oppose the tech. It probably can affect more than "non-viable embryos"

I'm sure there are private doctors already doing all of this. Why not?

I don't get the fascination with CRISPR for people thinking of having kids. PGD already is awesome, and kids who are born as a result of it are completely natural, just lucky. It wouldn't make sense to ban them from the Olympics, for example, because they could have come into existence naturally. There won't be a way to detect them later, either. It's equivalent to a woman having 100 kids and just picking out the best one, but the 99 others don't live/suffer/etc. Things like Dor Yeshorim won't be necessary, either. Once we know enough, it'll eliminate all the genetic component of regression to the mean.


I anticipate a stream of our best researchers entering China to reassemble our genetic code soon.

June 2029: "The ad said perfection is the child of the prepared, and my god Mom, she *is* perfect."

Doubt it. Internet censorship sucks. Bad pollution. Hard to find good cheese.

'Scientists create toe, belly button cheese from human bacteria' -

Well, someone has to start somewhere. Why not the Chinese.

Once someone identifies the genes that predispose boys to become libertarians, we will soon be in paradise.

If I recall right, Richard Lynn speculated that China may have a massive eugenic rise over this century. From wikipedia:

"In Eugenics: A Reassessment (2001),[51] Lynn argues that embryo selection as a form of standard reproductive therapy would raise the average intelligence of the population by 15 IQ points in a single generation (p. 300). If couples produce a hundred embryos, he argues, the range in potential IQ would be around 15 points above and below the parents' IQ. Lynn argues this gain could be repeated each generation, eventually stabilising the population's IQ at a theoretical maximum of around 200 after as little as six or seven generations."

Looks like China will take over from America in the 21st century, thanks to the republicans and conservatives.

Comments for this post are closed