Genetic Testing

Another Step Closer to Designer Babies

The genetic engineering of humans hit another questionable milestone recently when researchers at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland attempted to modify human embryos. Up to this point, such experimentation has been confined to efforts by Chinese scientists. The experiment involved altering the DNA of one-cell embryos with the advanced gene-editing technique CRISPR. While the technology is still in its infancy, such development opens the door to creating “designer babies.” “Many scientists are also worried that the technology could change the human germ line—the DNA in reproductive cells that is passed on from one generation to the next—in unexpected or dangerous ways,” according to Chemical and Engineering News. While medical ethicists continue to wring their hands over the disturbing ethical implications of these experiments, no stringent policy consensus or laws are in place to guide or slow down the genetic engineering freight train. Absent societal or political checks and balances, this kind of “mad science” will likely continue for the foreseeable future. —TV

Photo: iStock / Gio_tto

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