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Issues with Gene Editing Babies

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Technology
Wordcount: 1707 words Published: 18th May 2020

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‘Designer Babies’: Everything wrong with the concept of life before its even born!

Turnitin Statement

My Turnitin report came back with a 48% match, which I wasn’t surprised about. I wrote my essay plan and that went through Turnitin when it was submitted so all of the ‘semi-paragraphs’ came back as a match from a Flinders University Paper, which was my own. I also had a few key words come back as a match, like “gene, genome, editing, genetics” words that I can’t really change in my essay. There were 2 sentences that came back as a match, which meant that I hadn’t paraphrased them well enough. So I have gone back though my essay and made the necessary changes that I had to. I believe that when I submit my final report I will have a 30-40% Turnitin match and this will be because of my essay plan, and the paragraphs that I have used in my essay. Although I have added more information to each of the paragraphs that were already written.

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Due to advances in technology it is now possible to create and change life before its really even started. The term “Designer babies” was bought to light when genome editing technology thought about the different applications it could be used for (Cohen, J., 2018). These ‘designer babies’ exist because they have had their genetic makeup pre-selected and changed during the early stages of fetal development. The main goal behind this technology is to eliminate specific genetic errors or defect which can be found in the genetic framework of that child’s genome (Lanphier, E. et al., 2015). The process of gene editing on this level could be beneficial in the improvement of specific genes, to allow for certain genes and trails to either be present or take away from the very framework of the child, which overall creates a specific result (Harris, J., 2019).

CRISPR-Cas 9 is a genome editing tool. Although being able to edit genomes isn’t something new, CRSIPR has created controversy in the science world (The Lancet, 2018). The potential that this new technology has compared to other DNA editing techniques, CRISPR is cheaper, more accurate and efficient (Harris, J., 2019). However, the further applications of this technology, important ethical implications are needed to be considered (Harris, J., 2019). One of the applications for this technology is to edit human embryos (and edit germline cells (reproductive cells) not somatic cell (non-reproductive cells), because if any changes are made to the germline cells that will be passed on from generation to generation (Your Genome, 2016).

There are a number of positives to gene editing but what is often overlooked and not considered is the negatives that can be associated (Wang, H., 2019). There are a number of risks and ethical concerns that not only impact the baby in question but other participants like the mothers, families, doctors, society and world population. The main negatives of genome editing on babies is that there is no informed consent, there are a number of safety concerns and that it reduces the diversity of humanity (Liu, C. et al., 2017).

If edits are made to germline cells these changes will be made to all future cells. Since germline cells are reproductive all the changes are passed on to all of the daughter cells that are made. However, this can only happen if edits are made as early as a human embryo, so that every cell has these changes (Lanphier, E. et al., 2015). But there are huge ethical implications that parents will have already made many decisions that affect their future children (Cyranoski, D., 2019). Informed consent is not achievable since the prospective parent’s wont know the risks of germline editing because there isn’t a lot of research and most of the risks are unknown (Cohen, J., 2018). When the decision is made when couples/parents want to editing the genetic makeup of their unborn children they taking away who they might have become (Wang, H., 2019). The changes that can the occur can potentiality affect the life of that human in ways that might not be beneficial. The emotional or mental health of the child could be affected and the physical needs as well (Cohen, J., 2018). 

Since a lot of this application of technology is relatively new, there isn’t a lot of research or unknown risks that are associated with this kind of gene editing. This has prompted some countries to ban and regulate this kind of gene editing, and is even illegal is other countries (Sugarman, J., 2015). With the lack of research that has been found as of far, the use of this technology on humans (specifically germline cells) could be extremely dangerous (The Lancet, 2018). Not only are there concerns for the unborn child before experimented on and with but the mother is also at a very high risk. Making changes to the embryo there is no way to foresee how a mother will react with this experimented embryo (Lanphier, E. et al., 2015). The process can affect the genetics of the mother and can create consequences where the child is at further risk due to the mother’s immune systems and the rest of her change body though the pregnancy (Wang, H., 2019). This could put both of their lives in danger. Not only is it unsafe but it is unethical for someone to have to go though this kind of pregnancy with the amount of risks that could be involved (Sugarman, J., 2015).

This concern is perhaps the most worrying, outweighing all of the others. When changes are made to the genetic profile of an individual before they are born, we are limiting the change of genetic diversity available to the world (Liu, C. et al., 2017). The impact of this technology would be if we were able to clone humans. This can the create a much higher rate of infection, disease and mutation since there would be a lack of diversity within human populations (The Lancet, 2018). As humans we would lose what makes us special, all completely different people (Harris, J., 2019). The scales and balance of life would be tilted, there would be a lack of individualism and genetic diversity. Not only affecting the child and the family but societies and the world (Cyranoski, D., 2019).

However, when all of these negatives for genetic editing is addressed still people disagree and believe the positives trump the negatives. Genome editing could result in many of the worst diseases that humanity faces, such as cancer, no longer being a problem (Your Genome, 2016). The need for treatments and cures wouldn’t be necessary since we could design child whom didn’t have the genetic makeup that could induce these diseases (Liu, C. et al., 2017). Genetic editing creates a new avenue where future generations may be naturally immune to their impact (Wang, H., 2019). Developments like the could decrease the amount of human mutations and can place and end to suffering from disease. The technology of gene editing and CRISPR can be used in locating and killing offending cells that cause infection and disease. (Cohen, J., 2018).

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In conclusion, this new technology and application of genome editing on unborn embryos is interesting. However, there are a number of risk and ethical concerns that can outweigh the positives of this technology. The fact that there is no consent given is ethically unjust, since the child is incapable of making this decision and you (the parent) would be making it for them. The safety of the unborn child being experimented on and also the mother that would have to carry throughout the pregnancy, leaving them both in an unsafe state of risk. Lastly, the reduce genetic diversity of humanity, which would over time affect societies even the world. Although the technology can be used to cure diseases and allow for certain traits to be eliminated, messing with the very biology of a life is unsafe and unethical. We are all different individuals with completely different genetic makeups which makes us who we are and each of us special. Imagine a world where everyone was the same, what could happen to civilisation? What could happen to the future of our offspring in centuries to come?

Reference List

Media Articles

-          Harris, J., 2019, Pro and Con: Should Gene Editing Be Performed On Human Embryos?, National Geographic, viewed 5 June 2019, <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/>.

-          Your Genome, 2016, What is CRISPR-Cas9?, yourgenome.org, viewed 6 June 2019 <https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9> .

Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • Cohen, J., 2018. What now for human genome editing? Claimed creation of CRISPR-edited babies triggers calls for international oversight. Science, 362(6419), pp.1090–1092.
  • Cyranoski, D., 2019. WHAT’S NEXT FOR CRISPR BABIES? Nature, 566(7745), pp.440–442.
  • Lanphier, E., Urnov, F., Haecker, SE., Werner, M., Smolenski, J., 2015. Don’t edit the human germ line. Nature, 519(7544), pp.410–411.
  • Liu, C., Zhang, L., Liu, H., Cheng, K., 2017. Delivery strategies of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system for therapeutic applications. Journal of Controlled Release, 266, pp.17–26.
  • The Lancet, 2018. Genome editing: proceed with caution. The Lancet, 392(10144), p.253.
  • Sugarman, J., 2015. Ethics and germline gene editing. EMBO reports, 16(8), pp.879–80.
  • Wang, H., Yang, H., 2019. Gene-edited babies: What went wrong and what could go wrong. PLoS Biol 17(4): e3000224, viewed 6 June 2019 <https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000224>.


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