Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Featured First Human Embryos Edited in U.S.

  1. Jul 27, 2017 #1
    Researchers have demonstrated they can efficiently improve the DNA of human embryos.
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608350/first-human-embryos-edited-in-us/

     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2017 #2

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Notably, the article suggests that Mitalipov (an expert in working with human embryos who previously performed some of the pioneering experiments on generating human stem cells by cloning) has significantly improved upon previously published efforts at germline gene editing:
    Of course, it is hard to compare the studies as the research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  4. Aug 2, 2017 #3

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The paper describing these experiments has just been published in Nature: https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature23305.html

    Abstract:
     
  5. Aug 2, 2017 #4
    Call me old fashioned, but I'm ANTI-genetic engineering in general, especially in humans. Umm, if there's some kind of genetic engineering that will make a crop resistant to disease or bug or freezing temperatures, say, I may bend a bit, but in general, genetics and natural selection go hand in hand, like peas and carrots. Meaning that it was designed (haha) to not be designed, it works the way it works as a self-organized process. If you want to start mucking around with the works, you are likely to create an abomination, especially with human genetic engineering. As an artificial intelligence and robotics researcher, I say leave the intelligence engineering to electronics, and leave genetics out of it...

     
  6. Aug 2, 2017 #5

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    We have been "mucking around" with evolution for the last 10,000 years. Selective breeding is a much slower process, but it still transformed the animals and plants we use massively over time.

    This is how a wild banana looks like:

    319px-Inside_a_wild-type_banana.jpg
    Source

    This is a watermelon from the 17th century:

    Pasteques%2C_extrait_d%27un_tableau_de_Giovanni_Stanchi.jpg
    Source

    With the wild type of everything, we would still be groups of farmers, because there would be no food surplus to go beyond that.
     
  7. Aug 3, 2017 #6
    To start, I did say in my post #4 that I was perhaps friendly in some capacity even to genetically modified crops, conservatively. What you are talking about in you post isn't genetic engineering, it's "artificial selection" . Even so, artificial selection is actually a misnomer, because artificial selection is actually natural selection in disguise, it's just being naturally selected by human cognition and consciousness to craft an environment beneficial to the master species. But it's still natural selection.

    Genetic engineering is a whole different ballgame. In fact, I don't really like the idea of genetic engineering on any animal species, much less humans. If you're gonna experiment with it, keep it out of Kingdom Animalia.
     
  8. Aug 3, 2017 #7

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It's valid to question the extent to which the research reported yesterday in Nature actually represents genetic engineering. The cells that the researchers modified contained one normal copy of the MYBPC3 gene (from the mother) and one mutated copy (from the father). Because MYBPC3 encodes a protein that helps to maintain heart muscle, mutation of MYBPC3 is associated with an increased risk of heart failure and sudden death.

    When the researchers introduce CRISPR-Cas9 into the embryos containing the mutation, they stimulated cells to repair the faulty, paternal copy of the MYBPC3 gene using the normal copy from the maternal chromosome using the cell's natural DNA repair mechanisms. No DNA that is not normally present in human cells was introduced (in fact, the research suggests that it may be more difficult than expected to use CRISPR to introduce foreign DNA into human embryos). There are few safety concerns from the gene "edits" they introduced because the normal MYBPC3 sequence introduced into the paternal chromosome is present in >99% of humans.

    This is not "genetic engineering" in the GATTACA and designer baby sense. This is genetic engineering to cure disease. Is hip replacement surgery unnatural? Is prescribing glasses to fix one's vision unnatural? Yes, CRISPR could be used to potentially "enhance" humans (though we are very far away from knowing how to do that for most traits we are interested in), but all technologies have good uses and potentially bad uses (though not everyone agrees that genetic enhancement is a step too far).
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
  9. Aug 3, 2017 #8

    BillTre

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Interestingly, Ian Malcolm is wearing glasses in the video above!
    In a a society without glasses, he could well be dead or economically marginalized.
     
  10. Aug 3, 2017 #9

    BillTre

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Before I had kids, I didn't want a boy and a girl (which is what I got) but a clone and a recombinant.

    Sadly the technology was not (and still isn't) available and I'm stuck with the old fashioned reproductive products.
     
  11. Aug 4, 2017 #10

    OCR

    User Avatar

    Look at the (partial) abstract again... and pay attention to the key words...
    In the sense of common usage... IMO .
    This is not "genetic engineering"... it's repairing something that "should NOT have been" broken, and I'm all for it !

    Carry on... that's ALL, from me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017
  12. Aug 4, 2017 #11
    Sure, this isn't GATTACA... but it certainly opens that door.
     
  13. Aug 4, 2017 #12
    I would like to point out that that is a really savage remark for a father to say before I argue my point @BillTre, I hope your kids never get to view that post.:wideeyed::))

    1.Anyway, nature already corrects such errors naturally since a person born with such characteristics usually does not live long enough to reproduce thus the trait will eventually be lost - naturally.
    2.I think the issue here is that unfortunately we have not completely figured out what - for example- the full purpose of most genes are and so to tamper with these genes would result in unpredictable effects, whether in the immediate/long term phenotype or genotype. Although there are some obvious benefits of the idea, the fact remains that we are messing around with what we have not fully understood and although we would like to be able to achieve such a feat the consequences of failure are completely unpredictable and probably not worth it HEAR me out - FOR NOW- since we have not completely grasped the functions, uses etc - what I am effectively saying is we should be cautious and take our time in understanding what we are diving into since a serious mutation/side effects caused by these corrections could result in catastrophic results causing the whole thing to be more harmful than helpful.
    3.Glasses are physical objects that we put in front of our damaged/weakened eyes , yes to correct BUT the difference is that if the glasses stop working you can take them off and throw them away but if your DNA becomes unstable due to tampering........:)) :sorry::wideeyed::oops::frown:
    4.Humans make errors:
    come on be realistic don't become a sad statistic.:woot:
     
  14. Aug 4, 2017 #13

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    @thejosh
    Your point in #1 is not correct - traits that are recessive and potentially deleterious like nearsightedness, Sickle Cell disease are not "lost" from a population and do not automatically disappear. There are a variety of reasons but you might want to get and read a book on Population Genetics. Try this youtube video might help. Please do not post things that are misleading or incorrect.

     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017
  15. Aug 4, 2017 #14

    fresh_42

    Staff: Mentor

    ... which in my opinion only proves, that we already uncoupled us (in parts) from the usual evolutionary processes. And sickle cell disease can even be an evolutionary advantage, as it can prevent people from the worst versions of malaria (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22372205?dopt=Abstract). The nearsightedness, as I see it, is a side effect of our too big heads, but I'm not sure - it simply fits into optical physics and the fact that it usually starts during growth. Of course and fortunately we do not deselect all genetic disadvantages, but we still obey evolutionary processes. (Sorry, only found a Time Magazine article on a quick search to support this position.)

    So @thejosh's position #1 is only partly wrong and #2,#3 and #4 are - in my opinion - valid arguments. So the question is not so much about correct medical studies, but rather whether we want to do it and which risks are connected by it. I see post #12 as an attempt to describe those risks.
     
  16. Aug 4, 2017 #15

    BillTre

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    They have heard it several times and have no problem with it.
    They are not so fragile as you seem to think.
     
  17. Aug 4, 2017 #16

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    This is absolutely correct, and many scientists would agree with this point. This mainly is a concern, however, regarding trait enhancement (i.e. introducing rare alleles into the population). In the case of repairing mutations that cause genetic disease, such as the Nature paper correcting the MYBPC2 mutation, the researchers are replacing a rare allele with a very common allele, so the risks of unintended side effects are minimal. For this reason, when the National Academies released guidelines for potential gene editing therapies, they stressed limiting edits to introducing alleles already prevalent in the population (i.e. replacing disease alleles with normal ones).

    This is a good point, and it's worse. When you edit an embryo's DNA, not only do you change that unborn individual's DNA (bringing up issues with consent), but you are also affecting that individual's children, and their children's children, etc. This is one reasons why there needs to be very broad discussions of the topic so societies can make informed decisions about these technologies and their implications.

    Although I agree with the argument, for the sake of discussion, I'll play devil's advocate. What constitutes broken? There are some clear examples of mutations that lead to disease (e.g. the MYBPC2 mutation repaired in the Nature paper), but other cases might be more borderline. If we can understand the genetics of autism, should genes that predispose toward autism be considered broken or should society strive for greater acceptance of neurodiversity? This point is especially important for editing of embryos as embryos cannot give consent as to whether they want particular traits edited from their genomes. Similarly, if we start to understand the genetics of intelligence, would having predisposition toward below average intelligence be considered a genetic flaw requiring correction? These are all very tough issues that society (not just scientists) should consider as these technologies move toward the clinic.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017
  18. Aug 4, 2017 #17

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Nearsightedness may be a side effect of too much time spent indoors see: http://www.nature.com/news/the-myopia-boom-1.17120
     
  19. Aug 4, 2017 #18

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    @Ygggdrasil - nearsightedness (myopia) has been far more prevalent among Navajos than in the general US population. They lived almost completely outside up until about 30 years ago. I have seen it attributed to Founder Effect because of the mass movement off the Reservation with subsequent fatalities. Very like the low genetic diversity in modern cheetahs due to some (AFAIK) unspecified die off. It may well be possible that there is some kind of environmental response related to eye use that you cited. Ex: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/122-a12/


    https://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/timeline/332.html
     
  20. Aug 5, 2017 #19
    Hi @Ygggdrasil

    I am not sure I understand your logic here. The impression I am getting is that you are using the following syllogism.
    Premise 1. All humans have the right of consent regarding whether or not to accept some proposed medical intervention.
    Premise 2. A human embryo is a human.
    Conclusion. Therefore a human embryo has the right of consent regarding whether or not to accept some proposed medical intervention.​
    If this is your intended logic, then I take issue with both of the premises.
    Regarding (1): Young children do not have the right of consent. Their parents have this right, although sometimes a court judge may overrule this right.
    Regarding (2): This is a theological assumption that is not generally agreed to by a large part of the population.

    Regards,
    Buzz

    Edit jmc 8/5/2017 18:01 MDT - add a an @ to Ygggdrasil.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2017
  21. Aug 5, 2017 #20
    It kind of shocked me the first time I've read what you say, but after thinking of it, I think a clone will be much easier to educate than a child with other genes. One would know more exactly what to do with that kid to make it better based on personal experience than with a child whose DNA is completely unique.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted



Similar Discussions: First Human Embryos Edited in U.S.
  1. Embryos and cancer (Replies: 2)

Loading...