Trying to Play God Has Consequences

And it will not end well.  China, at the forefront of CRISPR technology and experimentation, could be shortening lifespans of babies the technology has been used on…the exact opposite of what they’re going for.  Via MIT Technology Review:

When the Chinese scientist He Jiankui created the first gene-edited children, he dreamed of improving the world. He believed the genetic alteration he added to twin girls born last year would protect them from HIV. Human embryo editing, he said, would bring new hope to millions.

Instead, he may have put the twins at risk of an early death.

A new report finds that genetic mutations similar to those He created, to a gene called CCR5, shortens people’s lives by an average of 1.9 years.

“It’s clearly a mutation of quite strong effect,” says population geneticist Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, who made the discovery while studying DNA and death records of 400,000 volunteers in a large British gene database, the UK Biobank. “You can’t have many mutations that do that, or you wouldn’t live that long.”

The finding offers a warning light to anyone else seeking to enhance human beings. That’s because many genes have more than one role, and scientists tinkering with the balance are likely to cause side effects they didn’t expect or want.

In February, variations in the same gene were linked to recovery of memory after stroke, meaning it could have a role in changing brain function, too.

“To go ahead and alter the germline based on partial understanding is not responsible,” says Feng Zhang, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert in CRISPR, the powerful gene editing tool employed in the Chinese experiment. “It’s another piece of information that we shouldn’t be so careless.” 

It is not hard to see how easily this could get rolled out on a massive scale without proper vetting.  How can you even properly vet this without literally an entire lifetime of observation on those who have had this done to them?  Do you think they would really wait an entire generation before rolling it out en masse?  Once you realize that, it’s easy to see how easily they apply that same logic to other things as well: 5G, new pesticides, etc etc.  NN Taleb’s approach to food and beverage consumption certainly has some merit.

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