Weekly reads: escape to New York, CRISPR baby patents, ISSCR guidelines, pubs

My to-read list this weekend includes a range of papers along with various news & media including a report of two US research groups aiming to get CRISPR baby patents. More on that below.

the high line in manhattan
Pictures from The High Line in Manhattan. Paul Knoepfler.

At long last a trip + fun thing to do in NYC

Last week I took my first trip in more than a year, visiting family in New York City, which was a combination of wonderful and kind of weird after all this time. I now need to catch up on a million things after the trip and before the trip I submitted a grant so I had a pile of stuff accumulating already before I even left.

One highlight of the trip was walking The High Line in Manhattan. This combo trail and park of a sort is a converted old elevated freight rail line. I highly recommend walking it. They’ve put a lot of work into making it a great experience. The walking path is flanked with many garden plants and trees interspersed with works of art.

I’ve made a composite (above) of 2 pictures from The High Line.  On the left is a picture of one of the many types of plants on the path. On the right we have a picture that is a fun juxtaposition of some kind of old factory metal object (included on The High Line as art) with a modern sky scraper behind it.

On to the reading.

CRISPR baby patents

One of two US university teams trying to patent the methods to make CRISPR babies is right there in New York where I was visiting. Pete Shanks over at CGS had a scoop of a sort I think by writing about these two patent applications. From Pete’s article:

“One patenting effort is headed by Shoukhrat Mitalipov at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), the other by Dietrich Egli at Columbia University in New York. These are not little-known “rogues,” the status typically ascribed to He Jiankui, whose “CRISPR babies” project made him globally notorious and landed him in a Chinese jail. Egli and Mitalipov are prominent scientists, widely published in prestigious journals, who work at major universities.”

I don’t agree with Pete’s characterization of some things or the implications of the language that he uses, but the patent development is interesting.

What Dieter Egli and Shoukhrat Mitalipov are aiming to do with the technology here is to correct mutations that cause genetic diseases. While I am extremely skeptical that heritable CRISPR will ever be a better way to go than just embryo screening like PGD and I worry about other possible indirect consequences of these kinds of efforts, these guys are serious scientists.

On a different level, I’ve had concerns about CRISPR babies for years, mainly related to trait modifications, but also woefully misguided efforts too like those of He Jiankui. Most recently I also wrote about a Ukrainian clinic called Medeus recruiting a team to try to do cosmetic CRISPR.

I also wonder if ISSCR dropping the 14-day rule on growing human embryos in the lab could indirectly lead to technological advances in human embryo growth in vitro that could enable more efforts at CRISPR’ing human embryos for reproduction. However, it’s more likely that future heritable attempts (“rogue” or otherwise) might focus on trying to CRISPR primordial germ cells.

2021 ISSCR updated guidelines on stem cell policy matters

Note that the ISSCR change on the 14-day rule is part of a larger release of ISSCR updates on stem cell-related matters.

You can start reading about that here in a piece from Robin Lovell-Badge, et al. The authors are kind of a list of go-to researchers on stem cell policy matters.

Recommended pubs

1 thought on “Weekly reads: escape to New York, CRISPR baby patents, ISSCR guidelines, pubs”

  1. Remember Marie Curie died of radiation poisoning …sometimes we do not know the long term consequences of new science

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