June 3, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Robin Lovell-Badge

4 min read

Scientist He Jiankui(贺建奎) has been sentenced to 3 years in prison by Chinese authorities. Two collaborators also will go to jail. A piece in Science by Dennis Normile on the sentencing of He Jiankui ID’d the other two: “His collaborators were identified as Zhang Renli, of a medical institution in Guangdong province, and Qin Jinzhou, from a Shenzhen medical institution.” Is this jail term an appropriate or even positive outcome here all things considered? Over the top? Dr. He became known colloquially as “the CRISPR baby guy” …Read More

4 min read

Trying to make a CRISPR baby any time soon would be a really bad idea. How bad? Last December 3rd I penned a piece for STAT News arguing for a moratorium on the heritable use of CRISPR in humans. This potential future, radical application of “gene editing” is now often colloquially referred to as “CRISPR babies”. Read that piece for the reasons behind my thinking and the risks involved in leaving the door open to using CRISPR to make people. Of course, this was …Read More

5 min read

Two prominent scientists, Robin Lovell-Badge and George Daley, have been amongst the most outspoken proponents of leaving the door open to heritable human genetic modification via CRISPR. While they each have articulated their reasons in somewhat different ways at times, their core reasons arguing in favor of future heritable CRISPR appear largely the same. In this post I tackle each of these arguments in favor of leaving the door open to “CRISPR babies” with science-based counterarguments. I also raise larger risks to going down …Read More

9 min read

Human germline CRISPR raises major bioethical considerations, but what about technical issues? Setting aside the many ethical issue about the general idea of human modification itself, could this really work? Yes in theory it could, but there are some very tough technological challenges that could and likely would cause failures or unacceptable outcomes at many steps along the way. These failures or unacceptable outcomes could easily involve real, live people who could be harmed or die. It’s very different than simple in vitro research so …Read More

2 min read

Can you make an artificial embryo? Developmental biologist Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz has long been on the trail of this seemingly almost uncatchable quarry. With her team’s publication in Science today they took a big step forward on this path even if some major hurdles remain. You can see her discussion of the research in the YouTube video above along with interesting comments from her graduate student, Sarah Harrison who was the first author. Congrats to both. The paper, Harrison, et al, is entitled “Assembly of embryonic …Read More

3 min read

With the approval today of the use of CRISPR in human embryos, the UK continues its recent trend toward a more permissive regulatory policy on human genetic modification. There are both risks and scientific benefits that come along with this trend. Last year the UK approved an experimental technology with the goal of preventing the transmission of mitochondrial disease. The approach would try to prevent this terrible genetic disease but in the process would also create genetically modified babies. I lobbied the UK Parliament …Read More