The Corner

Politics & Policy

Eugenics-Engineered Babies’ Brains Changed by CRISPR


The brains of two babies who were germ-line gene edited using the CRISPR process — meaning the engineered genetic changes will flow down the generations — were probably impacted by the procedure. From the MIT Technology Review story:

New research shows that the same alteration introduced into the girls’ DNA, to a gene called CCR5, not only makes mice smarter but also improves human brain recovery after stroke, and could be linked to greater success in school.

“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says Alcino J. Silva, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose lab has been uncovering a major new role for the CCR5 gene in memory and the brain’s ability to form new connections.

“The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” says Silva. He says the exact effect on the girls’ cognition is impossible to predict, and “that is why it should not be done.”

That’s only one reason why it should not be done. And for all we know, these changes could harm the girls’ cognition or other aspects of their health and wellbeing. It is why they will have to be followed medically throughout their entire lives.

Scientists and bioethicists who promote the supposed propriety of germ line gene editing — once it is “safe,” don’t you know — are irresponsible. Other than perhaps the most rudimentary alterations, it will never be safe. Scientists will never be sure what extent their manipulations will impact the engineered person’s gene expression overall, the physical manifestations of which could take decades to unfold.

And it will never be moral, at least as far as enhancements are concerned. What is a “better” human being?

All of this demonstrates the folly of germ-line eugenics engineering:

Silva says there is a big difference between trying to correct deficits in such patients and trying to create enhancement. “Cognitive problems are one of the biggest unmet needs in medicine. We need drugs, but it’s another thing to take normal people and muck with the DNA or chemistry to improve them,” he says. “We simply don’t know enough to do it. Nature has struck a very fine balance.”

Exactly! Scientists and bioethicists promoting germ-line engineering advocate tinkering with the most remarkable species ever to exist, and at our most fundamental biological level. Whether we evolved through non-directed forces, were intelligently designed, are the masterpiece of Creation — or a combination of these — we don’t have the right, not to mention the requisite wisdom, to do that.

It’s time to take the peril this technology poses to the human future very seriously. There should be an immediate, legally enforceable moratorium on human germ-line engineering experiments until international laws and regulations can be enacted. Human enhancement germ-line engineering should be permanently outlawed, and laws passed denying patent or other intellectual property protections for any scientist or biotech company breaching those protocols.

Or, we can continue the present drift and see where that takes us.

Something to Consider

If you enjoyed this article, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS. Members get all of our content (including the magazine), no paywalls or content meters, an advertising-minimal experience, and unique access to our writers and editors (conference calls, social-media groups, etc.). And importantly, NRPLUS members help keep NR going. Consider it?

If you enjoyed this article, and were stimulated by its contents, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS.


Most Popular


The Democrats Made Two Joe Biden Miscalculations

I think it's safe to say that there are many, many progressive Democrats who are more than a little surprised -- and a lot chagrined -- at Joe Biden's polling dominance. Look at FiveThirtyEight's polling roundup. Aside from a few high and low outliers, he leads the race by a solid 20 points (at least). Even ... Read More
National Security & Defense

The Warmonger Canard

Whatever the opposite of a rush to war is — a crawl to peace, maybe — America is in the middle of one. Since May 5, when John Bolton announced the accelerated deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of a possible Iranian attack, the press has been aflame ... Read More