From MIT Technology Review:
Even as a furious debate broke out in China over gene-edited babies, some scientists in the US are also hoping to improve tomorrow’s children.
by Antonio Regalado November 29, 2018
… Amid the condemnation, though, it was easy to lose track of what the key experts were saying. Technology to alter heredity is for real. It is improving very quickly, it has features that will make it safe, and much wider exploratory use to create children could be justified soon.
That was the message delivered at a gene-editing summit in Hong Kong on Wednesday, November 28, by Harvard Medical School dean George Daley, just ahead of He’s own dramatic appearance on the stage (see video starting at 1:15:30).
Astounding some listeners, the Harvard doctor and stem-cell researcher didn’t condemn He but instead characterized the Chinese actions as a wrong turn on the right path (see video). “The fact that it is possible that the first instance of human germ-line editing came forward as a misstep should in no way lead us to stick our heads in the sand,” Daley said. “It’s time to … start outlining what an actual pathway for clinical translation would be.”
In the future, no child will be left behind without the Harvard grad glibness & self-confidence gene, as seen in this “A Private Universe” video of Harvard grads and local blue collar kids explaining why it’s colder in winter:
Both sets of people come up with the same wrong answer — because the earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular and so we are further from the sun in winter — but the townies are obviously ashamed that that’s the best answer they can come up with, while the Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness.
I’m sure there were some Harvard grads who gave the right answer and ended up on the cutting room floor, but they will probably end up working for the Harvard grads who were technically wrong but winningly self-confident.
By germ-line editing, Daley means editing sperm, eggs, or embryos—anything that, if you alter its DNA, could convey the change to future generations. While other voices demanded a ban on germ-line editing, Daley and the other members of the summit’s leadership defended it. Their final statement said medicine’s daring and troubled project to modify humans in an IVF dish should move forward.
“It’s absolutely clear this is a transformative scientific technology with the power for great medical use.” Daley said.
Germ-line editing could be used, Daley said—and potentially should be used—to shape the health of tomorrow’s kids. By editing germ cells, it will be possible to remove mutations that cause childhood cancer or cystic fibrosis. Other genetic edits could endow children with protection against common diseases. On Daley’s list of potentially acceptable genes to edit was CCR5, the very gene that He altered in the twins.
At Harvard, Neuhausser says he and a research fellow, Denis Vaughan, will in the next few weeks begin editing sperm to change a gene called ApoE, which is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s risk. A person who inherits two copies of the high-risk version of the gene has about a 60% lifetime risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
It would be useful to have somebody propose a roadmap for just how much animal testing ought to be completed and verified before human testing is allowed to proceed. For example, laboratory mice can have a generation time of 3 weeks, so you could have 170 generations in a decade.
But what about animals with brains more like ours? Should we revive testing on chimpanzees, which has largely been phased out, for this?
Of course, that didn’t work out so well in Rise of the Planet of the Apes: