Humans have been manipulating genes for centuries, allowing us to produce crops that grow in inhospitable climates, to choose certain traits in cattle to make our steaks tastier, to produce medicine to treat cancer and other diseases, and even to clone pets that we can’t imagine life without. But the techniques for these genetic modifications had been challenging and expensive. That changed dramatically in 2014 with the introduction of CRISPR/Cas9 technology, making it relatively inexpensive and simple to edit genes within virtually any living thing. Now consider that 2018 marked the 40th birthday of Louise Brown – the first baby born using in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques. Bringing these two concepts together, we now have the ability to isolate fertilized embryos and relatively easily manipulate genes to create babies with desired traits.
But because we can, does that mean we should?
Disregarding international regulations, and apparently even Chinese laws, researcher He Jiankui announced in 2018 (via YouTube of course) that healthy twin girls had been born after successfully manipulating a gene to prevent HIV infection during an IVF procedure. This newsworthy event created a strong, negative reaction from the scientific community and from governments around the world.
This presentation will describe the simplified science of designer babies and hopefully stir some discussion of the ethics and religious implications of a technology that is surely here to stay.