CRISPR implications less than crystal clear

Thursday, November 29, 2018
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

DNA strandWhat some people might consider a new era of medicine, others deem unethical.

A Chinese scientist is making headlines after he reportedly used CRISPR to make the first genetically edited babies. CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

"It's a blockbuster development that has been predicted for some time that scientists somewhere in the world would sooner or later use this gene editing technique to genetically alter babies at the embryonic stage," explains Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life (AUL). "It's unethical, and it breaches understood ethical prohibitions, ethical moratorium on such research because it's basically experimenting on the embryos and not therapeutic."

Forsythe thinks everyone needs to be informed about the nature of what is going on here and how it differs from, say, being the first heart transplant patient.

"These children were not asked to give their consent. They were not informed. They were not adult patients who were told about the risks and potential benefits before they underwent this procedure," he submits. "Apparently the parents gave consent, but it's questionable whether they were even informed about what's going on here and what the implications are."

Forsythe

The scientist in question reportedly removed from the embryos a gene that may be a factor in HIV infection. According to Wired.com, the scientist said his trial was not just for these few patients, but for the millions of children suffering from HIV all over the world.

Wire.com tells of the scientist's personal experience with a village in China where 30 percent of the residents are infected and children have to live with their relatives for fear of contracting the virus.

Still, Forsythe questions what the implications are from removing the gene.

"Apparently some of the embryos died, possibly from the procedure," he reports. "Apparently two babies were eventually born, but what are the implications for their health?"

Forsythe adds there are other ways of protecting against HIV infection. 

"What if the gene has other life-sustaining properties or traits that these children will eventually realize as their life goes on?" he poses. "What are the implications of taking out a gene for such a purpose, when these embryos weren't babies who had an identifiable disease?"

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DNA strandA new form of genetic tests is raising a serious question of ethics.