January 23, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

human genetic modification

11 min read

Below is a conversation with bioethics commentator Kelly Hills (who BTW has a great blog), tackling some of the key issues surrounding the potential use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to make heritable human genetic modification. I really appreciate her clear and insightful answers to some tough questions that many are grappling with today on this topic. Part of the possible power of some forms of human genetic modification procedures being considered for potential future use is that they are heritable. This means, for example, that embryonic …Read More

13 min read

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology is red-hot right now and I’ve been doing interviews with various thought leaders on it, which today includes Steven Pinker. This technology has great power for research in the lab and there are hypothetical transformative clinical applications of CRISPR too. The latter efforts could include experimental attempts at reversal of disease-causing mutations in one-cell embryos with the hope that they then grow into full-fledged, healthy human beings. Hypothetically CRISPR could also be used for pursuing human enhancement via germline genetic …Read More

1 min read

The White House seems to be getting more active on genetics in the last six months. It’s refreshing to see them actually talking about real, important science. My feeling has been that up until now they’ve been giving too little attention to science so even if you may disagree with some aspects of what they are saying, at least they are more engaged. White House Precision Medicine Genetics Initiative (see photo above from WSJ, Obama with student Elana Simon, who was honored previously by …Read More

1 min read

The Obama Administration today weighed in on human germline genetic modification such as via CRISPR via a note from John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The White House indicated support for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) plans to convene an international meeting on human germline genetic modification including CRISPR-Cas9 technology: “The White House applauds NAS and NAM for convening this dialogue and …Read More

2 min read

Heritable human genetic modification has been the topic of the year so far, but another trend is edgy and interesting: non-heritable, but cutting edge forms of human modification that in some ways fall into the class of biohacking. Biohackers are into do-it-yourself (DIY) forms of biology including self-modification. Sure, people have been modifying themselves for thousands of years. Tattoos, hair changes, cosmetic surgery, tooth fillings and crowns, pacemakers and other medical implants. However, changing up one’s body has gone high-tech and DIY to include …Read More

2 min read

Many of us scientists, ethicists, and legal scholars are working on educational outreach to the public on the potential use of gene editing technologies like CRISPR to genetically modify human beings, but clearly there’s a long way to go and much more to do on this front. By the way, you may find this new 2020 post we’ve done on the intersection of CRISPR gene editing and stem cells to be a useful read. The future use of CRISPR to edit the human genome in a …Read More

4 min read

A decade ago I wrote an article in the journal Nature Biotechnology about the rise of a new gene editing technology called zinc finger nucleases (ZNF). It was one of those “drumbeat” discoveries: at the time, my sense was it would revolutionize how we deliver genes to cells and tissues, and profoundly change the way we think about gene therapy. I was partially right. Although ZNFs are now well along in clinical trials for HIV, successive advances in precision gene editing now include transcription …Read More

3 min read

A lot has happened in the week since the first human embryo genetic modification paper was published by a team led by Junjiu Huang. There have been a number of new events just in the last few days. Jocelyn Kaiser over at SCIENCEINSIDER has a new piece reporting a couple important developments including that the journal that published the human embryo editing paper, Protein & Cell, has issued an editorial explaining the review process for the paper. They argue that the review was fast, but …Read More

4 min read

Last week was a big one for the life sciences in that we saw the milestone of the first ever published paper reporting human embryo genetic modification (see here and here). It was one of those situations where we knew it was coming, but it was still a jolt. Not surprisingly this event sparked intense discussion and even some arguments. Below are 4 areas of contention at this moment and some additional thoughts on them. I value diverse views so please weight in with comments. A big deal …Read More

2 min read

The paper that came out Wednesday from a research group in China reporting the first genetic modification of human embryos has sparked a lot of discussion. Some concerns about this paper have surfaced. 2-day review? The paper (HT to John Borghi) was in review only from March 30-April 1 — so at most 48 hours. Really? That certainly raises a red flag of inadequate or absent peer review. That kind of “review” in the past with high-profile papers has been associated with a high risk of errors …Read More