Kodyleva, T. A., A. O. Kirillova, E. A. Tyschik, V. V. Makarov, A. V. Khromov, V. A. Guschin, A. N. Abybakirov, D. V. Rebrikov, and G. T. Sukhikh. 2018. “Эффективность создания делеции CCR5Ddelta32 методом CRISPR-Cas9 в эмбрионах человека.” Научный Медицинский Журнал РНИМУ имени Н.И. Пирогова 4.
This makes Russia the world’s fourth country to have published a paper on this topic, along with the US, the UK, and China – the latter of which is currently leading the pack.
updated embryo editing scorecard. tally of papers describing embryo editing with CRISPR, by country.
RUSSIA just added because of this paper, describing CCR5 edits to embryoshttps://t.co/w6nJ5IU8Eo
— Antonio Regalado (@antonioregalado) June 10, 2019
One of the authors, Denis Rebrikov, has been profiled in the Western scientific press.
- Nature: Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies
- Science Mag: Russian geneticist answers challenges to his plan to make gene-edited babies
Some highlights from Nature:
Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov has told Nature he is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women, possibly before the end of the year if he can get approval by then. Chinese scientist He Jiankui prompted an international outcry when he announced last November that he had made the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls.
The experiment will target the same gene, called CCR5, that He did, but Rebrikov claims his technique will offer greater benefits, pose fewer risks and be more ethically justifiable and acceptable to the public.
It appears that he is taking a more cautious approach than He Jiankui, who did it through relationships with American scientists and shady Chinese clinics that bypassed all official Chinese channels. Sound decision.
Implanting gene-edited embryos is banned in many countries. Russia has a law that prohibits genetic engineering in most circumstances, but it is unclear whether or how the rules would be enforced in relation to gene editing in an embryo. And Russia’s regulations on assisted reproduction do not explicitly refer to gene editing, according to a 2017 analysis of such regulations in a range of countries. (The law in China is also ambiguous: in 2003, the health ministry banned genetically modifying human embryos for reproduction but the ban carried no penalties and He’s legal status was and still is not clear).
Rebrikov expects the health ministry to clarify the rules on the clinical use of gene-editing of embryos in the next nine months. Rebrikov says he feels a sense of urgency to help women with HIV, and is tempted to proceed with his experiments even before Russia hashes out regulations.
One of my previous articles had a discussion on the legality of gene editing of human embryos. The coming decade will be a crucial one as maturing technologies will force the major countries to clear up their stances.
Konstantin Severinov, a molecular geneticist who recently helped the government design a funding programme for gene-editing research, says such approvals might be difficult. Russia’s powerful Orthodox church opposes gene editing, says Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow.
The legislative success (or failure) of these initiatives will be different across countries. In Russia, the main opponent really is likely to be the ROC. Though it won’t matter much if Putin is for.
And from Science Mag:
Q: Only a subset of those want to get pregnant. What’s more, there’s been a steady introduction of new ARVs, and the new integrase inhibitors have extremely little evidence of people having drug resistance. Given that, what’s the rationale?
A: CCR5 editing is just a proof of concept. If I can’t find an HIV-infected woman who doesn’t respond to ARV therapy and wants to be pregnant, I’ll look for different cases where both parents have a homozygous mutation for some genetic disease, like dwarfism, deafness, or blindness. We need models to start to use CRISPR embryo editing in clinical practice. I think we need several, 50, maybe 100 cases of using this technology, and after that we can we can try to use it more broadly. For example, we can see in a family that all babies will be born with a high risk of cancer. Now, when genome editing is just starting, it’s dangerous and not proven so we can’t use it with them. But in the near future, I think we can say to these parents, “Would you like to make some changes in the genome of your babies to reduce their risk of cancer?” And not only cancer, but different diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and so on.
At first, practical applications will involve forestalling possible diseases. The ethical case for that is irreproachable, and would build a nice public view of these technologies. This would be a logical first step towards public acceptance for bolder, “transhumanist” applications.
Q: Two international committees are now discussing how to move forward with germline editing, and we also know the reaction to what He Jiankui did. If Russia went forward right now with this experiment, would those international considerations come into play?
A: I don’t think it’s possible to restrict some experiments worldwide. You can try to restrict it in some areas, researchers can go to islands in the Pacific Ocean if they want to do it. We can’t stop progress with words on paper. So even if we say, let’s not do the nuclear physics, because it can make a bomb, a lot of scientists will still do this. We can’t stop it. A lot of groups will try to do experiments with embryos to transfer to women, and maybe it won’t be in my group, but we will see in the next years that they will have some results, and they will publish it. That’s maybe the problem for humans on the planet, that we cannot stop the progress.
This is what I pointed out as well. No legal genetic editing, and many of the elites will use black clinics in out of the way places. This will ironically the doomsayings of massive inequality that leftists use to argue against human genetic editing.
Q: What do you think of the harsh reaction to what He did?
A: That’s a normal reaction of human population and all life systems, not only humans—maybe birds. Any life system, 90% of a population is very conservative. That’s normal. And maybe 5% is progressive. We just need to wait some time, maybe some years. And we need very good clinical cases to show people that this instrumentation is powerful, but it’s safe and has good results.
That’s a rather deep point.
Q: Has anything happened since the Nature story appeared? Has any government official called you and said, “Stop this, don’t talk about this?”
A: No. Russia now, I think, is a good country to do this type of experiments. It’s not very free in politics, but it’s very free in science.
Well, this is good and encouraging to hear.
Q: What do you think of germline editing that’s not for disease, but for enhancement of things like running speed, IQ, or eye color?
A: It will be the next step. But in 20 to 30 years. Now, I’m opposed to it. In 2040, I’ll support it. I’m not against the idea itself. And these people who are opposed want to have all these things in their children but only by “divine providence,” not by science. They are liars or stupid.
Again, this also sounds very reasonable. The technology is currently nowhere near mature enough yet to reliably edit for polygenic traits. But 20-30 years sounds about right.
I do wonder what the consensus is.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that there have been any expert surveys on this topic to date.
There are plenty of expert opinion surveys on AI/superintelligence, on IQ (h/t Becker & Rindermann), even one on radical life extension.
But have there been any *expert* surveys on when genetic editing for polygenic (e.g. IQ) traits will happen?
— 🐉ak (@akarlin88) February 19, 2019