April 22, 2015
Chinese Scientists Try Gene Editing On Human Embryos

Chinese scientists used the CRISPR-CAS9 genetic editing tools to genetically edit human embryos. No, they did not implant the embryos in human wombs. They did not even start with embryos viable enough for implantation. The goal was to genetically test the results and measure the accuracy of the genetic edits.

The scientists found the genetic editing was not precise enough. Not all embryos got the desired modification. Some got undesired genetic mods. The tech is not mature enough. Will improved CRISPR-CAS9 techniques eventually become viable or will other approaches be necessary?

Some American scientists want a moratorium on attempts genetically alter germ line (egg, sperm, embryo) DNA. But I do not see a problem with using left-over embryos from fertility clinics to try out various genetic editing techniques. These embryos aren't going to become humans.

I've previously discussed some of the ways governments might respond to germ line genetic engineering. China will not be slow about embracing offspring genetic engineering. They'll probably criminalize genetic edits that create personalities that the the state sees as a threat to public safety or political stability. But I expect the Chinese government to embrace efforts to cut genetic load and create much more highly productive Chinese.

What I want to know: does it make sense to use human embryos at this state to test genetic editing accuracy? Will genomes of other species have substantially different error rates in editing?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 April 22 10:18 PM 

kenneth t.kendrick said at April 23, 2015 5:40 PM:

Steven Hsu has conducted research which shows that simple brain size is a large component of intelligence.It seems to me that gene testing which selects for brain size would be low hanging fruit for IVF.While much discussion focuses on selecting genes for high intelligence,There should be more concern for what causes low intelligence.Weeding low intelligence in IVF would be progress in itself.And don't forget chromosomes.There are many problems caused by chromosome defects.It is ironic that chromosome tests cost about $6000 dollars while gene tests are dropping like a rock.Richard Lewontin wrote a book "not in our genes".That is the Marxist view.The Marxists stand opposed to genetics.

kenneth t.kendrick said at April 23, 2015 5:45 PM:

It should be national policy that gene and chromosome testing be available to anyone who wants it free of charge.

JP Straley said at April 24, 2015 7:56 AM:

I agree with Kenneth Kendrik, and my understanding is that currently such testing IS available. The problem is that as we go forward there will be rent-senking agencies (the FDA comes to mind) that will try very hard to control it. In the end, these agencies will be frustrated because the technologies are fairly portable. Why, you might take a repro-vacation in Mexico or the like!

Clearly, fitness is the primary goal and intelligence a close second. It's likely that fitness (and perhaps absence of genetic load) would be a substantial contribution towards intelligence.

So far as children are concerned, parents nearly always want the best future for their children, and genetic intervention at the conception-level is a gift that can only be given at the very beginning. People will understand that.

"National Policy" has to be administered by someone. The danger is that the rent-seeking FDA will micro-manage, to all our detriment. If there is any "NP" for such techno, I'd be more comfortable with a tax-credit for say, 2/3 the cost. Good incentive, the future payback ought to be quite positive, and natural children will come into the world without some gov't penalty.

JP Straley

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