Summary of Editing Humanity

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Rating

9

Qualities

  • Scientific
  • For Beginners

Recommendation

CRISPR technology has the potential to transform medicine, science and beyond. Yet genome editing also faces myriad challenges: scientific, political and ethical. It may still be decades before genome editing is reliable, affordable and morally defensible – and accepted by the public. Kevin Davies’ book elegantly weaves in the competition and conflict surrounding the discovery, development and explosion in CRISPR applications with the very serious moral and societal questions inevitably raised.

About the Author

Kevin Davies is the executive editor of The CRISPR Journal and the founding editor of Nature Genetics. He is the author of Cracking the Genome and The $1,000 Genome.

 

Summary

Scientists first edited a human gene using CRISPR in 2017.

In November 2018, news broke that a young Chinese scientist named He Jiankui had altered the genes in a fetus. Later reports confirmed the birth of genetically altered twin girls. He Jiankui altered the genes in each of the babies’ cells, including their egg cells, using Clustered Regulatory Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology. Hence, the girls’ offspring would be the first individuals in history to inherit human-altered DNA.

When He spoke at a conference in Hong Kong a few weeks later, presumably in part to explain his actions, he probably expected to be on the verge of scientific stardom. But that was decidedly not the case. Scientists around the world were outraged by what he had done. And when he returned to China, he faced arrest and prison rather than fame and fortune.

Less than two decades earlier, scientists finished the epic Human Genome Project. The information compiled in the human genome’s complete sequence – the printed encyclopedia runs over 100 volumes – made it possible to identify the causes of hereditary diseases and even the sources of more common afflictions...


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