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COLUMN: Don't be afraid of designer babies


By Jacob Worrell



Scientist Dr. Kathy Niakan received permission to begin gene editing on human embryos Feb. 1.

Gene editing broadly describes how we manipulate an organism’s genes.

Since genes encode the features of any life form, further development of gene editing techniques might make “designer babies” possible.

Especially in humans, changing our genetic makeup gives rise to the possibility of “designer babies.”

People are concerned these techniques will be developed with innocent intention, but that — once they reach a certain stage — they’ll be marketed to people or abused by the government.

Then, we’ll have something quite a bit like a modern, roundabout version of eugenics.

While this viewpoint at first may seem contrived, it is actually somewhat realistic.

Scientific developments like this are likely to be ill-regulated at first simply because it’s impossible to account for all their future implications.

We don’t know enough when technological developments are in their infancy to make accurate predictions.

Interests of the government and wealthy have a great amount of power.

The possibility human gene editing becomes commercialized or institutionalized by the state for malicious purposes isn’t so far-fetched.

That being said, the research being done in the UK has announced noble 
intentions.

The things this might tell us about early human development could contribute to substantially better fertility treatments and lower rates of miscarriages.

According to an article from New Scientist, a variety of angles could be taken to make these improvements.

Scientists could develop better methods for selecting embryos for IVF by identifying important genes for early development and mutations that hinder growth.

We can explore how the “soups” of media in which embryos are grown genetically affects human embryos.

We should recognize the unavoidable realities of gene editing’s risks and rewards .

It ultimately comes down to a judgment of value.

With my usual modus operandi, I favor expansion of human knowledge.

I support these experiments completely, strictly because we’ll be able to learn more by doing them than we would otherwise.

Add to this the potential improvements to our quality of life that this research might one day create, and I’m very strongly compelled to support Niakin’s progress.

While I support these experiments, I strongly warrant caution.

Imagine what might happen when we realize what our scientific knowledge can do.

This cutting-edge research forces us to ask these questions, we don’t know what will unfold as we push the envelope further.

We need to thoroughly examine each step we take.

When we check for any negative implications, we can deal with what we need to before progressing further with our scientific research.

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