Designer Babies

Breakthrough: Human Embryos Successfully and Safely Gene-Edited

Anti-designer baby bioethicists call for "an immediate global ban."



The rumors are true: A research team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biology specialist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has successfully and safely edited a disease-causing gene out of some human embryos. As Nature reports, the researchers used the CRISPR genome-editing technique to correct a gene variant that causes enlarged hearts and often results in sudden death early in life.

Unlike earlier research in China, the Oregon team managed to get the repaired genes into every cell in 42 out of the 58 embryos that they edited. In most of the embryos, the editing process did not create new off-target mutations.

"We've always said in the past gene editing shouldn't be done, mostly because it couldn't be done safely," MIT researcher Richard Hynes tells The New York Times. "That's still true, but now it looks like it's going to be done safely soon." He adds that the research is "a big breakthrough."

The breakthrough displeases the anti-designer-baby claque of bioethicists.

"I think it's extraordinarily disturbing," Marcy Darnovsky tells NPR. Darnovsky directs the Center for Genetics and Society, a genetics watchdog group based in Berkeley, California. "It's a flagrant disregard of calls for a broad societal consensus in decisions about a really momentous technology that could be used good, but in this case is being used in preparation for an extraordinarily risky application."

"If irresponsible scientists are not stopped, the world may soon be presented with a fait accompli of the first [genetically modified] baby," David King says in the same NPR report. King, who heads the U.K-based group Human Genetics Alert, wants "governments and international organizations to wake up and pass an immediate global ban on creating cloned or GM babies, before it is too late."

What dangers would such GM babies pose? In this case, the gene-edited embryos would grow up to be healthy people who don't pass along a disease gene to their children. The horror!

NEXT: Beware, Pain-Sufferers: Jeff Sessions Is Coming for Your Doctor

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Have you talked about the artificial womb that has been developed? Seems relevant to the debate over ‘evictionism’ and related to these other topics about gene modification of embryos

    1. That… complicates the narrative.

    2. Not sure who the ‘you’ is in that sentence, but reason has covered artificial wombs quite recently in fact.

      1. I guess I missed that. Thanks

  2. What dangers would such GM babies pose?


    1. Yes, I suppose some imbecile will try to create ‘Supermen’. Since I seriously doubt that they understand as much about the human genetic code as they think they do, their failures should be instructive. Also, I would much rather the experiment be done in the open, where we can keep an eye on it.

      The other possibility is that some fool will deliberately create a race of untermensch, to be used as slave labor, or (if your imagination runs to the lurid) kept as playthings. Again, I would much rather this be done in the open, so that when the untermensch grab all the limbs of those involved and make a wish, we can erect the appropriate statues.

  3. So we need an organic labeling law for babies now? Or, perhaps if we don’t vaccinate these kids it will all even out.

    Why do I think the party of science doesn’t like this progress one bit?

    1. It’s just a matter of time before we have GMO people protesting GMO foods.

  4. These bio-ethicists only want us to live as God intended.

    When mankind is to be perfected, it will be in full accord with Progressive orthodoxy.

    1. You know, if every time a progtard opened their mouth, a non-progtard slapped them, they would shut up altogether pretty quickly. As they are all gutless little pussies. Trying to deal with them like they are adults, or even pretending they are people, has gotten us into the mess we’re in with them.

  5. Hey, Ron, you kinda missed the best part:

    “The United States does not allow federal money to be used for research involving human embryos, but the work is not illegal if it is funded by private donors.”

    And here I thought every modern discovery came from the government…

  6. In most of the embryos, the editing process did not create new off-target mutations.

    in others, Hugo…the evil twin.

    also, what if the disease is important?

    1. not a comment on designer babies…have a cylon party for all i care…

  7. You should only be allowed to perform gene editing if your name is Gene. Fair is fair.

  8. I found a great site that focuses on stay at home mom’s complete guide to gaining a serious amount of money in very little time. While being able to earn an passive income staying home with your kids. If you are someone who needs more money and has some spare time, this site is perfect for you. Take a look at…


    Trump”s New Opprunuties See Here

  9. Are they going to cure the LGBT babies in utero now?

    1. Or make more of them to help out with that whole ‘population bomb’ they keep expecting?

      I mean, assuming it’s even genetic in the first place.

    2. You beat me to it. I love bringing it up too, as it never fails to drive any progs reading it full nuclear.

  10. It’s a flagrant disregard of calls for a broad societal consensus in decisions about a really momentous technology that could be used good, but in this case is being used in preparation for an extraordinarily risky application.

    So, we hold a vote. Except the uneducated shouldn’t count as whole votes. We can’t have people who not use good thinking voting against curing sickle-cell disease because they don’t trust the government.

  11. Specificity in what “most” means when they say off target mutations were not created in most of the embryos. “Most” can still be an unacceptably high rate of unintended mutations.

    1. “Most” can still be an unacceptably high rate of unintended mutations.

      I’m not intimately familiar with ESCs but I believe the unintended mutations are largely non-catastrophic or inconsequential. Overwhelmingly, you’re trading an enlarged heart and failure at age 10 for chronically high cholesterol. The issue is more cogent when you have more typical multi-gene diseases and have to do multiple modifications. The odds of getting viable embryos through n-rounds quickly becomes non-ideal.

      Overall, I don’t disagree except to say that I honestly think the gist of the research/article is that designer babies have moved from the distant future into the ‘sometime in the next 10 yrs.’ realm. Starting… NOW!

      1. OK, it just seems an important consideration to remain vague about.

        1. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. They can’t be anything except vague about it. You would have to bring the embryos ‘to term’ and even study them well after to definitively know the effects, if any. Considering the overwhelming amount of DNA is junk and the relative novelty of the technique, even 50% specificity is pretty successful.

          This was proof of concept, not late-stage beta testing.

    2. That is a good point. I suppose the solution to that is to sequence the genome of the embryos before they are implanted, and just not implant the ones with off-target gene edits.

  12. Yeah, things like this are pretty cool. I do wonder though if, say, editing out sickle cell in African populations would be wise before wiping out Malaria.

  13. It’s hard for me to take Ron Bailey seriously. He does not believe, or cannot accept, that East Asians have an average IQ of 107 while sub-saharan Africans sport an 80.

    Correct me if I’m wrong!

    1. It’s pretty amusing that someone would actually believe an entire continent would have a literally retarded IQ score and think that’s accurate, but that’s just me. The cutoff in the United States is considered 85 last I checked.

      1. Well now, just look at the median IQ in San Francisco.

      2. Yeah, it is just you.

      3. Sorry, reality doesn’t conform to the SJW narrative. IQ does indeed vary by region, and multiple studies have all found the same averages for that region (sub-saharan Africa isn’t a continent, it’s part of a continent by the way), and it is in the 80s. To me it’s way more amusing watching how upset people get over the fact that not every group in every country has the same IQ score as every other one, and flatly dismiss any scientific study that doesn’t conform to their feelz.
        Your next step is to now deny that IQ means anything at all or measures anything at all, despite its high correlation with all other measures of academic achievement and success in life.

    2. Did you read Murray’s other book “Human Accomplishment”? It’s even better. He thinks obscure English composers are more accomplished than any black jazz, rock or R&B artist (ok one mention of Duke Ellington but that’s it) because, well, because everything from Africa is lowbrow ..

  14. very nice post. I like it. Thanks for sharing this information.
    Tinder is the best online chatting application. Try it. tinder for pc tinder download

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.