Altering a human gene may not be the sure way to protect it from contracting diseases.
For most couples, having a baby is the most wonderful thing that could happen in their lives. But the practice of gene editing coukd not be the answer to prevent any diseases or conditions from occurring.
Dr. He Jiankui had a different point of view. He had modified fetuses for seven couples in the course of fertility treatment. His objective is to protect the embryos from acquiring HIV which resulted in the birth of two twin girls (means four babies!) with constructed DNA.
Lulu and Nana were the two children born in October. Dr. Jiankui modified their genes to become resistant against infections. A few medium-sized Invitro Fertilization (IVF) clinics can make use of a Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) vector which can be bought for $100 to reproduce the embryo gene modification.
Dr. Jiankui was educated as a physicist and not a biologist. It only indicates that he was not capable to perform the research himself. He financed his own project which costs more than $50 million. At the same time, he secretly hired highly-trained scientific professionals to conduct the research. The process was contrary to the existing standard procedure on ethics and legality in genetics.
He introduced his work during a conference coordinated by the University of Hong Kong to bring up human embryo gene modification. The features include the following:
– the endeavor was detailed
– the authorization was concluded
– the definite genetic modification cost component is irreversible with most of the cost from the present and future gene editing will be in various genetic screening and tests
– the families constitute the advised decision to utilize the genetically edited babies
– Embryo selection with genetic evaluation is a replacement in some circumstances. But it will not be always the case if none of the parents has a declining gene.
Britain’s Francis Crick Institute professor and gene expert Lovell-Badge headed the organizing group for the November Human Genome Editing Summit. He initially asked Dr. Jiankui to the conference.
Lovell-Badge said, “If it’s true (that he edited the genomes in the way he says) then it is certainly possible that he has put the children’s lives at risk. No-one knows what these mutations will do. He should certainly be stopped from doing anything like this again.”
Dr. Jiankui has a reason for conducting his work while others could fairly argue. It appears that the father of the girls is infected with HIV and wants his children to be free from the virus. The contrasting argument is how protected the child will be getting along with an HIV infected person.
Chinese institutions, authorities, and hundreds of scientists from around the world criticized what Dr. Jiankui did. They stated that any presentation of gene editing on human embryos with an aim to reproduce was opposite to China’s law and medical ethics.
Because of his work of gene editing, he could be accused of bribery and corruption. In China, these crimes are considered to be culpable by a death penalty. The physicist is currently under continuous guarding by armed guards due to death threats and upcoming trial.