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United States Medicine Science

First Human Embryos Edited In US (technologyreview.com) 140

randomErr shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, MIT Technology Review has learned. The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR. Until now, American scientists have watched as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases. In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed "germline engineering" because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells -- the egg and sperm. Reached by Skype, Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which he said are pending publication. But other scientists confirmed the editing of embryos using CRISPR.
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First Human Embryos Edited In US

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  • by omfglearntoplay ( 1163771 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @06:05PM (#54894939)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt01... [imdb.com]

    This is heading us into a scary and evil world. Not to mention all the screw-ups that will happen. Edit gene blah to fix pimples... whoops that gives you an automatic heart attack at age 30.

    A few years back I remember seeing all the Chinese scientists talking about editing human genes so that they would not crave meat. It'd be cheaper to feed them that way. GREAT IDEA, WHAT COULD GO WRONG?!!!!

    • You could say the same thing about the invention of the automobile but somehow we survive (at least most of us)
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Not even remotely close. This is more like the development of the atomic bomb. Nice to see that this group isn't any smarter than anyone else and doesn't have to sense to have some apprehension about this.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The atomic bomb killed a lot of people.

          And ended a terrible worldwide war that would have otherwise gone on to kill WAY MORE people.

          It has also, so far, prevented a third such war.

          Yes, tech like this must be taken seriously. But it must not be flatly rejected out of fear.

          We need it.

        • Really, gene editing has zero useful social functions like curing congenital heart defects, or adding aids resistance or any of the thousand of benefits? You are a moron.
          • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @10:59PM (#54896313)

            Really, gene editing has zero useful social functions like curing congenital heart defects, or adding aids resistance or any of the thousand of benefits? You are a moron.

            You have to admit that this new ability to edit human genes does have the potential to be used in some pretty damned creepy and dangerous ways. Couple that with human nature and you're almost assured it will be, at some point. Do you believe someone like Kim Jong Un and N. Korea would hesitate to create "super-soldiers" and more with this?

            An abundance of caution going forward is not uncalled-for considering the possible uses and results along with their depth, scope, and implications for humanity's future.

            Strat

            • You have to admit that this new ability to edit human genes does have the potential to be used in some pretty damned creepy and dangerous ways. Couple that with human nature and you're almost assured it will be, at some point.

              But if we refuse to use it for good, we're not putting the GMO toothpaste back in the tube. We would be leaving the field wide open for North Korea and ISIS.

              • But if we refuse to use it for good,...

                My exact words were; "An abundance of caution going forward is not uncalled-for..."

                Nowhere did I state nor imply that I thought a ban was a solution. In fact I did not offer any solutions, as quite frankly, it's a damned difficult question with many very fundamental principles involved, many in possible opposition to one another. There are no simple solutions here, particularly as the CRISPR-cat is out of the bag and already used on human embryos, and most Western governments as yet have near-zero policy st

            • Meh. I'm not too worried about "Super-Soldiers". Even were you to edit things to make you the most optimal human being, you are still a human being, and are going to be limited by basic biology. Outside of science fiction there are much better ways to kill people and wage wars. A simple bullet will still kill a soldier. Though I guess probably the biggest improvement would be to increase resistance against biological weapons... then again that might have the positive spin off that people stop bothering to m

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @12:41AM (#54896647) Homepage

            Well in this case, the claim "by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes", is a bit fat lie. The only way that it is possible to demonstrate that is to allow the experiment to reach maturity. You might have managed your change but it is extremely hard to tell how much damage you have down especially to what they used to call junk genes, which in reality are a complex set of interrelated genes that don't turn stuff on or off but adjust how much they are turned off or on. Do not claim value or safety until the experimental subject has achieved maturity, else it is a lie.

            • Well in this case, the claim "by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes", is a bit fat lie. The only way that it is possible to demonstrate that is to allow the experiment to reach maturity. You might have managed your change but it is extremely hard to tell how much damage you have down especially to what they used to call junk genes, which in reality are a complex set of interrelated genes that don't turn stuff on or off but adjust how much they are turned off or on. Do not claim value or safety until the experimental subject has achieved maturity, else it is a lie.

              I completely agree. Though, scientists nowadays like advertising so that they can get more grants to do things they want to do. I am not saying it is a bad thing, but many of them are abusing the Internet to make fame before the real result from their researches are in...

      • The automobile has destroyed the atmosphere...
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Gattaca was more about reading the genes and discriminating based on it. (there are plenty of other films that talk about what could go wrong by making edits that result in unforeseen complications) Refusing to hire someone because their genes say their life expectancy isn't long enough to be worth training them, or who is expected to have more sick days than you want, or who has a condition that will be expensive for the corporate health plan to treat.

      Gattaca predicted that we'd be able to read more in to

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Gattaca predicted that we'd be able to read more in to the results of a genetic test than we currently can, but it may still happen. It also predicted that genetic testing would be cheap and easy for corporations to do.

        Well I don't know about corporations, but I think we're nearing the point where it ought to be a no-brainer for medicine. Your DNA doesn't change, that means if we sequence a newborn today it's good for ~80 years of treatments and 80 years of accumulating knowledge and the cost is now around $1000. So like $12.50 a year to know your current and future risk factors, even if it's almost useless the amortized cost is trivial. Of course that's assuming we stick this result in a database somewhere... a lot of pe

        • The other no brainer is saving stem cells from the umbilical cords of newborns. These cells can be stored in liquid N2 at negligible cost, and used to treat all sorts of disorders later in the kid's life, as well as used for anti-ageing and life extension. Yet it is almost never done.

          • by jezwel ( 2451108 )
            I considered this with the recent birth of my son, however with adult stem cells now identified it didn't seem like they would be needed in the future. Plus the cost was another factor is declining this. All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope that science proceeds apace with adult stem cell processes becoming cost effective for more treatments.
      • Gattaca was more about reading the genes and discriminating based on it.

        Gattaca was a stupid movie. They were screening people to ensure they were qualified to be astronauts. This is something WE ALREADY DO. No one with a defective heart should be sent into space at taxpayer expense. If genetic testing can streamline and improve the screening then of course we should be doing it.

    • I don't think it's necessarily evil any more than any other technology is. The same technology that can do all of the harm that you imagine can also eliminate diseases and other manners of affliction. Humanity has faced this dilemma throughout history, and some have chosen poorly, but those who choose wisely tend to end up ahead of the curve and humanity advances.
      • but those who choose wisely tend to end up ahead of the curve and humanity advances

        So you're saying the wise normal humans will be running in front of the horde of 3 headed zombies, all chanting "brains, Brains, BRAINS"?

        It's just another tool, neither good or bad. It's how it's used by it's wielder is what actually counts. Hopefully they experiment on themselves first.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Edit gene blah to fix pimples... whoops that gives you an automatic heart attack at age 30.

      TLDR: it will be illegal to perform the type of edits you're worried about.

      Doctors doing this to people would be legally required to follow ethics guidelines. Researchers in lab don't have to since they're not doing research on people*.

      Those ethical guidelines were already being debated heavily when it was even more hypothetical than it is now. [nature.com] Steven Pinker is probably the most gung ho guy for "do germline editing" [ipscell.com] and even he seems to suggest no edits for purely cosmetic reasons. The guidelines wi

      • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @07:11PM (#54895361)

        even he seems to suggest no edits for purely cosmetic reasons. The safe money is that they specifically ban any edits that aren't correcting life-threatening conditions

        And even safer money says a huge industry of cosmetic edits will pop up before life-threatening conditions even start regulatory approval trials. You'll just need to fly out of the country to do so.

      • TLDR: it will be illegal to perform the type of edits you're worried about.

        It is unlikely to be illegal everywhere. Medical tourism is already a big business.

        What is wrong with gene editing to fix pimples, if the treatment is proven safe and effective? Severe acne can be emotionally devastating, and have physical consequences such as secondary infections. Why should the government be making that decision instead of leaving it to informed individuals and their doctors?

        • It is unlikely to be illegal everywhere. Medical tourism is already a big business.

          Sure, but we were talking specifically within the US here. CRISPR clinics elsewhere may pop up, but that was going to be true no matter what we did in the US, and would have been true even if the current study hadn't been done.

          Why should the government be making that decision instead of leaving it to informed individuals and their doctors?

          The ethics discussion panels I was talking about are being done by scientists and doctors, not the government. I believe medical boards which issue and can revoke medical licenses are made up of doctors, the ones making the medical guidelines too. So "the government" in this case WOUL

          • So "the government" in this case WOULD be the informed individuals and doctors.

            You seem to be confused about what "individual choice" means. When someone says that decisions about, say, medical procedures, speech, and property should be left up to "individuals", they mean the individual who actually inhabits the body affected, is voicing the opinion, or owns the relevant property. They do NOT mean just ANY individuals, such as the police, or an "ethics panel", or even the voting public, even though these are indeed made up of "individuals".

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, I think the immediate application will be to be able to have children who won't have to worry about developing Huntington's and other genetic diseases where we can zero in on a single gene, or perhaps several genes.

      But the things that make a human admirable or superior are nigh-imperfect aren't going to translate into genes in any way we will be able to figure out anytime soon.

      One of the big surprises when the human genome was decoded is that it is far, far smaller than anyone had suspected. We expec

      • Man we should fix that last metabolic pathway in the Vitamin C cycle. Vitamin C is awesome. Mega-dosing Vitamin C won't cure your cold or flu; but high doses (like, 500mg/day) will remove mercury and lead from your body.

        Vitamin C regulates prolactin, helps generate Dopamine and Norepinephrine, donates two electrons to act as a powerful anti-oxidant while itself not radicalizing, helps with cell wall building, helps to counter damage and stress caused by cortisol release, and generally does a whole lot

    • There is no technology that mankind has so far invented that can do as much for individuals or mankind as a whole as CRISPR.

      Here we have news of a huge breakthrough in human genetic engineering, and someone's deferring to a second rate sci fi fantasy hollywood movie for guidance.

      Makes me wonder why we even bothered separating church from state so long ago.

    • You said scary and evil. Point taken.. While it does promise corrections in genetic defects.. Who's hands is it going to be in?? The Good? or The Bad? Its a subject with lot to think about..
  • by Zephyn ( 415698 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @06:23PM (#54895059)

    ....when even the cannibals have to start worrying about GMOs.

  • Technological and scientific advances have the potential to drastically change the world. That's why they are valuable. That's why they are dangerous.

    I don't want to stop or even slow genetic research BUT, I would like to see real work put into developing rules to try to prevent some of the possible nightmare futures it could create.

    • I would like to see real work put into developing rules

      How are you going to enforce these rules? You can already buy CRISPR kits on eBay.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I've never thought of keeping embryos in the crisper.

      • You won't always be able to enforce them but if, for example, home DNA hacking is seen as a major threat you could probably restrict and track technologies the way it is done for nuclear technology. (if there were no restrictions, a homemade nuclear bomb is not impossible).

        You can also arrest and imprison people when they are caught doing illegal mods.

        It may not be necessary. The technology to effectively modify humans may require a large infrastracture. Or maybe not?

        I agree with your general point thoug

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They edited the first human embryos? Can you believe that? The first human embryos ever and they went and edited them rather than keep them in their original state.

    Come to think about it, I'm surprised that they managed to find the first human embryos. Also that they still exist, and are still embryos.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, 2017 @06:29PM (#54895105)

    They edited some embryos to remove defective genetic defects. Two healthy white babies were successfully delivered 9 months later. Parents Tyvek and Ledasha Washington were happy with the outcome since it allowed them to have children who are more likely to succeed despite their parents' elevated melanin levels.

    • since it allowed them to have children who are more likely to succeed despite their parents' elevated melanin levels.

      And much less likely to be shot by a cop.

  • Both Sides? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @06:30PM (#54895113) Homepage

    On one hand, we're creating genetically modified super-humans. On the other hand, we're also creating AI fueled human killing drones.

    World War III sure is looking to be pretty freggin awesome!

  • by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @06:37PM (#54895153)
    So 'edit' is the euphemism we're using for genetic engineering now?
    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      So 'edit' is the euphemism we're using for genetic engineering now?

      No. It refers to a specific technique of genetic engineering.
      What part of "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats" don't you understand?

    • I can't help figuring the scientists using the DNA machine, and the software interface having a "Edit" menu, with Copy, Cut, Paste, Undo, Redo, ...
  • Is it too late to fix Trump?

  • How long until real-life catgirls? Or all women with a C-cup chest size as the minimum?

    Or all blondes with blue eyes? I think someone was fixated on that a few decades ago and it didn't turn out very well.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cyn1c77 ( 928549 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @07:30PM (#54895479)

      How long until real-life catgirls? Or all women with a C-cup chest size as the minimum?

      Or all blondes with blue eyes? I think someone was fixated on that a few decades ago and it didn't turn out very well.

      Why does it have to be about gratuitous cosmetic crap? People can already get plastic surgery, they don't need genetic modifications to look good if so inclined.

      But what about no sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis? What about improving the human genome in a voluntary way without committing genocide?

      Dream a little bigger than chest size! Not everyone like C-cups and catgirls, but no one likes to die young.

      And given that some people won't even take vaccines, which have been around for at least 200 years (?), I think it's safe to say that there is no danger or the whole population immediately undergoing genetic modifications.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Are they really defects or stages in evolution? Who decides when a mutation may or may not eventually evolve into a meaningful advance for a species?

    • Some defects are obvious, leaving their victims dead before they're one year old.
    • Are they really defects or stages in evolution? Who decides when a mutation may or may not eventually evolve into a meaningful advance for a species?

      Survival and propagation of species drives selection. Something humans are really good at disrupting "naturally" these days.

  • ... vi, emacs, dd or notepad?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      vim and emacs likely both have CRISPR plugins.

  • Obligatory SMBC comic about gene editing [smbc-comics.com]
  • Cant we start with sheep, chimpanzees or something before doing this with human embryos?

    LK

    • Just what the world needs, super mutant chimpanzees. It's already infested with hairless apes who are too smart for their own good, to much detriment.
  • Am I the only one remembering Star Trek? Or what about the Asgards from Stargate? pretty sure that this whole issue about gene editing has been universally regarded as a terrible idea right up there with skynet and grey goo.
  • the baby would be born with a huge Ã(TM) sticking out of its face.

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