CRISPR – human trials to begin

23 July 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’m properly terrified.

the TED talk on CRISPR was welcomed with muted applause, I expect due to the power of this new technology, and what we have, historically, done with greatly powerful technologies (see: plutonium). It seems rather quick to jump to human trials, considering how little we know about the technology, and its potential to spread out of our control.

From the Guardian

Crispr: Chinese scientists to pioneer gene-editing trial on humans

A team of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to apply the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as Crispr on human subjects.

Led by Lu You, an oncologist at Sichuan University’s West China hospital in Chengdu, China, the team plan to start testing cells modified with Crispr on patients with lung cancer in August, according to the journal Nature.

Crispr is a game-changer in bioscience; a groundbreaking technique which can find, cut out and replace specific parts of DNA using a specially programmed enzyme named Cas9. Its ramifications are next to endless, from changing the color of mouse fur to designing malaria-free mosquitoes and pest-resistant crops to correcting a wide swath of genetic diseases like sickle-cell anaemia in humans.

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Human Sexual Identity

27 October 2012

More than whether you’re an innie or an outie.

I’ve come across two videos recently that help to define human sexuality in a way that’s all inclusive. they both go well beyond the predominant binary, and manage to present models that include any variation you care to think about. I believe this is a healthier way of seeing one another, as it doesn’t try to cram the huge variety into two limiting and inaccurate definitions.

re: the angy inch

Tommy Speck: “What’s that?”
Hedwig: “It’s what I’ve got to work with.”


First “successfully” Genetically Modified Humans [tm]

29 June 2012

Even a slippery slope can take all the fun out of sex.

I keep expecting to see this in the Onion, and if it is a joke, it is decidedly unfunny. After modifying the genetics of animals and plants, and feeding them to animals and humans, this was the next step. I can’t wait until humans are modified to be tolerant to pesticides and GMOs, so that we never have to revisit the foolhardiness of industrialized agriculture.

In terms of human reproduction, I have wondered why we don’t take infertility as a symptom of a much bigger problem (human bodies full of pesticides, for example), and instead of treating the cause (i.e. cleaning up where we live), we continue to treat the symptoms. If you can’t have babies, it is the surest sign that you shouldn’t have babies.

World’s First GM Babies Born

The world’s first geneticallymodified humans have been created, it was revealed last night.

The disclosure that 30 healthy babies were born after a series of experiments in the United States provoked another furious debate about ethics.

So far, two of the babies have been tested and have been found to contain genes from three ‘parents’.

Fifteen of the children were born in the past three years as a result of one experimental programme at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St Barnabas in New Jersey.

The babies were born to women who had problems conceiving. Extra genes from a female donor were inserted into their eggs before they were fertilised in an attempt to enable them to conceive.

Genetic fingerprint tests on two one-year- old children confirm that they have inherited DNA from three adults –two women and one man.

The fact that the children have inherited the extra genes and incorporated them into their ‘germline’ means that they will, in turn, be able to pass them on to their own offspring.

Altering the human germline – in effect tinkering with the very make-up of our species – is a technique shunned by the vast majority of the world’s scientists.

Geneticists fear that one day this method could be used to create new races of humans with extra, desired characteristics such as strength or high intelligence.

Writing in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers, led by fertility pioneer Professor Jacques Cohen, say that this ‘is the first case of human germline genetic modification resulting in normal healthy children’.

Some experts severely criticised the experiments. Lord Winston, of the Hammersmith Hospital in West London, told the BBC yesterday: ‘Regarding the treat-ment of the infertile, there is no evidence that this technique is worth doing . . . I am very surprised that it was even carried out at this stage. It would certainly not be allowed in Britain.’

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: ‘One has tremendous sympathy for couples who suffer infertility problems. But this seems to be a further illustration of the fact that the whole process of in vitro fertilisation as a means of conceiving babies leads to babies being regarded as objects on a production line.

‘It is a further and very worrying step down the wrong road for humanity.’ Professor Cohen and his colleagues diagnosed that the women were infertile because they had defects in tiny structures in their egg cells, called mitochondria.

They took eggs from donors and, using a fine needle, sucked some of the internal material – containing ‘healthy’ mitochondria – and injected it into eggs from the women wanting to conceive.

Because mitochondria contain genes, the babies resulting from the treatment have inherited DNA from both women. These genes can now be passed down the germline along the maternal line.

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates ‘assisted reproduction’ technology in Britain, said that it would not license the technique here because it involved altering the germline.

Jacques Cohen is regarded as a brilliant but controversial scientist who has pushed the boundaries of assisted reproduction technologies.

He developed a technique which allows infertile men to have their own children, by injecting sperm DNA straight into the egg in the lab.

Prior to this, only infertile women were able to conceive using IVF. Last year, Professor Cohen said that his expertise would allow him to clone children –a prospect treated with horror by the mainstream scientific community.

‘It would be an afternoon’s work for one of my students,’ he said, adding that he had been approached by ‘at least three’ individuals wishing to create a cloned child, but had turned down their requests.

175 Days to Dec 21st 2012