Russian CRISPR scientist announces new controversial effort to edit genes that cause deafness

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I was just reading about a study USDA did on some CRISPRed calves. Turns out it’s pretty easy to add a whole bunch of crap to your “precisely” edited genes. Anti-biotic resistance, for example.


a gene-editing process to eventually enable couples who both carry a specific genetic mutation that causes deafness to birth children who can hear.

That was so hard for me to parse. I kept asking myself “what is a birth child?”

Took entirely too long for me to realize “birth” was acting as a verb.


if DNA were big enough to see, it wouldn’t really look like an abstract ladder with empty space inside it



Must be like a birth mother, as in, the mother’s biological child, rather than her adopted child.

Wait, but then…

Causes deafness to, rather than causes deafness in?

Forgiveable, but…

Causes deafness in children who can hear?


That garden path sentence is harder to de-tangle than the supposed moral dilemma involved.


But it causes deafness to birth children!

Deafness has never birthed a child before. This is a major milestone.


It has a long way to go before it catches up with alcohol and carelessness.


“Teen Pregnancy More Common Than Thought”


This is how it begins. Next up, boosted IQ and resistance to HIV. We knew this was coming. What will we do (if anything)? What should we do (if anything)?

Beware the armed Panda…

Eats shoots and leaves


This smells of Google Translate.


“The project is recklessly opportunistic, clearly unethical and damages the credibility of a technology that is intended to help, not harm, says Jennifer Doudna”

Is she suggesting Rebrikov is intending to harm these children? Am I missing something? Not that there aren’t risks involved with any new technology, but his intentions sound good.

  1. Deafness is only a disability if everyone else in society makes it one for the deaf person.

  2. Deafness is not fatal and as such does not justify employing unproven, risky techniques that could cause unforeseen harms.

  3. Unborn children cannot consent to participation in this experiment.

  1. Yes!
  2. Yes.
  3. What… the fuck? No. Fertilized embryos are not children and don’t have rights. You made two perfectly good points; no need to get greedy and go for the hat trick.

Incidentally the reason why reproduction in general, with or without cutting edge risks being taken; is grievously and unavoidably unethical.

Not being snide there; though I’ll admit to tactfully not making a point of it when expectant parents are busy being delighted in my vicinity.

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Pass the cigarettes – smoking for two now.

Fertilized embryos are not children and don’t have rights.

Correct. This is not in dispute. What is important here is the ethical precedent that we choose to set in genetic experimentation. Our technological capabilities are progressing very fast in this area. The scientist is not proposing to simply edit a human embryo and verify that it works (then destroying the embryo), the scientist is instead proposing to edit a human embryo, implant it in a womb, and then grow it into a full child who will inherit all the medical risks inherent to the technique with no say whatsoever in the matter. Here are some of the risks that that child could wind up dealing with for its entire life:

  • greatly increased risk of cancer due to off-target gene editing in random places that will warrant increased medical surveillance and testing to catch any tumors early
  • increased risk of autoimmunity due to new antigens being created from either on- or off-target gene editing
  • potential for a random, difficult-to-detect genetic disorder that–even when we know its origin–is usually untreatable
  • genetic chimerism, where not all cells get edited or the gene edit doesn’t stay stable, which could give rise to who-knows consequences
  • laser beams for eyes, which the field of ophthalmology is wholly unprepared for

Change “birth children” to “give birth to children”, and all makes sense.

But to nitpick even further, “conceive” would have been a better choice than “birth” in that sentence.