Gene-Edited Babies: What a Chinese Scientist Told an American Mentor
Researchers Want to Link Your Genes and Income - Should They?
Investigations continue into Dr. He Jianku’s claim to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies. This article details responses from Dr. He’s American advisors when he was a postdoctoral fellow and grad student. The article raises a number of questions. Do faculty members — and academic institutions more generally — bear responsibility in the actions of the students they mentor? When does this obligation end? To whom should they report suspected ethical breaches or “corner cutting”? Especially when the students have moved on to other institutions or countries?
Article by Pam Belluck for the New York Times.
Image by Mark Schiefelbein, Associated Press: Dr. He’s team working on an embryo in a sperm injection microscope in Shenzhen, China.
Multiple Lines of Mysterious Ancient Humans Interbred with Us
“A push to calculate a "genetic income score" using giant DNA databases raises a raft of ethical questions.”
Article by Megan Molteni, Wired.
Image by Lauren Joseph, Getty Images.
New Hominin Shakes the Family Tree—Again
Our family tree is getting bushier with each new study!
Today, a study published in CELL draws on DNA analysis of living Southeast Asians to show that a fourth species of humans lived alongside modern humans, Denisovans, and Neanderthals . What’s more, the Denisovans were surprisingly diverse and may have been the last group to live beside modern humans, contributing to the DNA of modern humans as recently as 15,000 years ago.
Article: Maya Wei-Haas, National Geographic
Image text: Jason Treat and Maya Wei-Haas, NG Staff
Image source: Murray P. Cox, Massey University
AiPT Science: Interview with creators of ‘ANYA,’ a genetic mystery movie
Evolutionary anthropologist John Hawks shares his thoughts on the meaning of the latest discovery in the human family tree: a previously undiscovered new species of human relatives named Homo luzonensis after the island in the Philippines where they lived.
This post to the Sapiens.org anthropology blog, puts the finding in perspective: over the past 20 years there’s been a boom of unprecedented new discoveries. Not all may merit the label “new species” but they speak to many-branched human tree and many opportunities for new exploration.
China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise
Thanks to Yelena Bernadskaya at Adventures in Poor Taste (AiPT) Science for a wonderful writeup of interviews with ANYA co-creator Dr. Carylanna Taylor and science advisor Dr. Ruth McCole on the science behind this fiction film.
“It’s very satisfying for me to see filmmakers put in the effort to portray science (and scientists) correctly and truthfully in their work. “ (AiPT Science, 3/14/19)
For a Black Mathematician, What It’s Like to Be the ‘Only One’
ANYA deals with unintended consequences of contemporary genetic technologies and broaches the related ethics.
Stories coming out in the news suggest we only scratched the surface of what’s coming. At the 2019 Festival of Genomics in London, I learned a new UK initiative to collect 5,000,000 human genomes for medical and insurance purposes. Norway and other countries have similar but smaller programs. More sequenced DNA means bigger more accurate data bases for personalized medicine, crime fighting, and other purposes.
From news coming out of China this week, it appears that mass collection of DNA has given us something else to worry about: surveillance, oppression, and thorny issues about how foreign corporations and academics participate in legitimizing activities that might be illegal or at least unethical at home.
Read the full article by Sui-Lee Wee for the NYT.
Now You Can Sequence Your Whole Genome for Just $200
Fewer than 1 percent of doctorates in math are awarded to African-Americans. Edray Goins, who earned one of them, found the upper reaches of the math world a challenging place. His experiences offer insight into what academic life might be like for ANYA’s Dr. Seymour Livingston.
Chinese scientist who claims he created world's first gene-edited babies is missing amid rumours of arrest
HERE ARE A few things you can buy with $200: one bluetooth-controlled fire pit, 100 lab-grown Impossible White Castle sliders, access to the 6.4 billion base pairs that make up all the DNA coiled inside your cells. Veritas Genetics current promotion offers $199 genome sequencing (typically $999). (Meghan Molteni for Wired.)
CRISPR-Babies in the News
Another twist in the ongoing story of scientist He Jiankui, whose whereabouts are now unknown after his experiment editing the genes of two Chinese babies was condemned by scientists around the world. Reported by Kelsey Cheng for MailOnline
Genetically Modified People Are Walking Among Us
It’s been a week of fast and furious headlines as the news of the first “CRISPR babies” spreads since the original announcement by MIT Technology Review on 11/25/18. It’s been fascinating to watch how different media cover the story. It will be interesting to see if the public ultimately embraces the technological advance or meets it with a collective shrug. (Preliminary news analysis by ANYA filmmaker, anthropologist Carylanna Taylor).
We’re overdue for a society-wide conversation about this technology.
“It felt as if humanity had crossed an important line: In China, a scientist named He Jiankui announced on Monday that twins had been born in November with a gene that he had edited when they were embryos. But in some ways this news is not new at all. A few genetically modified people already walk among us.” Carl Zimmer (New York Times) goes on to remind us of a few of these cases, three-parent embryos through “mitochondrial replacement therapy.”
Science Summit Denounces Gene-Edited Babies Claim, But Rejects Moratorium
In the Washington Post, J. Benjamin Hurlbut, Sheila Jasanoff, and Krishanu Saha hold the scientific community partly responsible the gene-editing “experiment that was not supposed to happen.” It’s a helpful summary of where the news of the possible first "CRISPR babies” by Dr. He Jiankui (pictured) and his team fits into current scientific consensus or lack thereof.
Friend of ANYA talks Gene-Editing on “Open Source”
Pictured: American biologist & Nobel laureate in medicine David Baltimore criticized a fellow scientist, physicist He Jiankui, who claims he has edited the genes human embryos, during the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong. (NPR’s All Things Considered with Rob Stein)
Flawed DNA editing of alleged ‘designer babies’ may have put their health at risk
Bioethicist and friend of ANYA, Jeantine Lunshof, and director of Harvard’s science & technology studies, Sheila Jasanoff spoke on WBUR Open Source with Chris Lydon talking gene-edited babies 11/29 @9pm. Listen to the full hour discussion.
The worst-case scenarios of CRISPR gene editing, according to Hollywood
This VERGE article by Angela Chen suggests that the so-called CRISPR babies may not be resistant to HIV as intended (and indeed may have a compromised immune system) and highlights several of the reasons why the scientific community is up in arms. We’ll know more if more data is released for peer review.
Editing Babies? We Need to Learn a Lot More First
“A scientist in China has dominated headlines this week with the claim that his research team has successfully created the world’s first genetically-edited babies. If true, the experiment raises a lot of difficult ethical questions—ones that mainstream films and TV shows have been exploring for decades.
The topic of genetic engineering is so prevalent in pop culture that it’s practically a genre unto itself. At the heart of these science fiction depictions is the issue of whether the benefits of genetic engineering—that is, potentially curing diseases—outweigh the colossal risks, which range from eugenics to unintended mutations.” (Adam Epstein, Quartz)
Chinese Scientist Claims to Use Crispr to Make First Genetically Edited Babies
In this New York Times Op-Ed, professor of molecular medicine Dr. Eric J. Topol argues the time for gene-editing human embryos may came but “that time has not arrived.”
Bloomberg Quicktake: Gene Editing
From the New York Times
By Gina Kolata, Sui-Lee Wee and Pam Belluck
“Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q.”
Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies
Looking to get up to speed fast on the news of the first gene-edited human embryo? Take a look at this accessible and informative overview for Bloomberg. My quick take on the subtext of John Lauerman’s article and Freya Ingrid Morales’s image? There are a lot of people in business and politics eager to make sense of this news.
In this MIT Technology Review piece by Antonio Regalado, “[a] daring effort is under way to create the first children whose DNA has been tailored using gene editing.”
Like the characters in ANYA, scientists are grappling with the ethics of this breakthrough technology.