I got a package from my publisher and upon opening it I saw the Korean edition of my book GMO Sapiens on the potential use of CRISPR in humans. The English language edition can be purchased here at the publisher where you can get 35% using the discount code WS16XMAS35 until January 15th or here on Amazon.
This is really exciting.
I don’t speak Korean, but it was interesting to see the cover and how the book turned out in Korean. The cover art on the Korean edition is quite striking with the silver and red, and the different icons coming together.
It is also a great feeling to know that many people in Korea or for whom Korean is a first language will be reading my work and thinking about the important issues involved.
Last year I heard from several sources that there somewhere between 3-5 unpublished manuscripts reporting the use of CRISPR gene targeting in human embryos being shopped around at various journals in addition to the one that had been published. Since that time we’ve seen a grand total of one additional paper reporting on CRISPR of human embryos.
So what gives?
Were the sources wrong?
I don’t think so and I believe there are additional labs pursuing research on the use of CRISPR in human embryos.
Depending on the context, the oversight, and the training of those involved, there may be nothing wrong with these studies at all. In fact, they could be positive and teach us a lot if the teams are careful. However, CRISPR’ing human embryos without a good rationale and appropriate oversight is unwise. I also cannot imagine supporting use of CRISPR with the intent to make a modified new human being for many years to come if ever. You can learn more about the history of genetic modification and my views as well as those of CRISPR leaders in my new book, GMO Sapiens.
So where are all the CRISPR human embryo papers? I can think of a few main reasons why we haven’t seen more so far.
Editors as gatekeepers? One possible reason we haven’t seen more CRISPR’d human embryo papers is that journal editors are reluctant to publish them and are acting as essentially gatekeepers for this kind of work. If true, what are the potential risks or benefits of such a de facto filtering system and what is the basis by which the editors are making such decisions?
Outcomes of first 2 pubs discouraged more? Another possibility is that other research teams have been discouraged by the first two papers reporting CRISPR use in human embryos. I can see at least two levels at which those considering working and publishing in this area might be reluctant to proceed because of the first two papers. On the one hand, both papers reported technical challenges with this research, which was discouraging. On the other hand, both papers were heavily criticized by some.
Want $250 as well as at least a sliver of science-related glory?
Within my new book GMO Sapiens on CRISPR and human genetic modification, I’ve hidden a scientific Easter egg.
There’s more Easter egg info over here including the rules.
If you are the first one to find and properly explain this egg to me after buying the book, you win $250. I had originally limited it to the print edition, but e-version purchase is fine too.
So far no one has gotten the hidden egg right.
To give people a better chance, today in this post I’m giving a hint.
The clue is: crack the Easter egg code.
Campaigns are underway in several European countries against the possible use of genetic modification in humans to make designer babies and one has a distinctly anti-CRISPR tone.
Stop Baby GMO Website images
For example, in France a group is pushing an anti-GM baby campaign and the same kind of thing is going on in Switzerland, which I blogged about recently. In Switzerland it appears the campaign is targeting legislation related to preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) so it seems that campaign is using the possibility of designer babies (pretty much a non-issue for PGD) and the animosity toward GMO foods amongst some in Europe as a wedge to get votes against PGD.
Over on Twitter Magdalena Plotczyk () posted a striking photo of an anti-GMO poster from Lausanne, Switzerland. The top part of the poster translates as, “‘After GMO corn, GMO children?'”
As readers of this blog know, I do have concerns about the eventual production of genetically modified people using rapidly evolving genetic modification/gene editing technology such as CRISPR.
In fact, I’ve written an entire new book on this, GMO Sapiens. I hope you’ll read it. However, as you’ll see in the book, I’m not so concerned about GMO plants and foods in a general sense. I also do not see that GMO people or as I refer to them in the book, GMO sapiens, directly follow from GMOs in the plant world.
I think the bottom part of the poster translates roughly as, “No to unlimited reproductive medicine”.
Here’s the tweet.