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Last semester, a single, hypothetical, issue haunted all our discussions in my co-taught class, “Engineering Humanity: The Promise and Perils of Biotechnology.” “Hypothetical,” that is, until the penultimate week of class when we received word that a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui crossed an ethical red-line, allegedly using CRISPR-cas9 technology to bring the planet’s first gene-edited babies into the world. These twins, Lulu and Nana, had undergone “gene-surgery” (He’s preferred term) as embryos to edit-out a single gene, CCR5, without which He hoped they might become immune to HIV (their father carries the virus). Suddenly, all of our previous hedging, imagine if this technology is ever applied to the human germ-line, seemed somewhat naïve.


Originally published by Marginalia

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Published January 4, 2019

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