Safe production of gene-edited babies could be possible in just one or two years, and the head of China’s leading genetic research program says the need is now urgent for international regulations.
Professor Yang Hui said his team had achieved a major breakthrough, tripling the efficiency of a new gene editing tool that can modify DNA in human embryos with unprecedented precision and safety. They used variant of the CRISPR method, known as base-editing, to alter a batch of human embryos that contained a mutation that can cause birth defects.
A targeted mutation disappeared in 80 percent of the embryos in their recently published work and they believe 100% effectiveness is one to two years away.
The team was close to solving ethical issues and other problems relating to the procedure, such as off-targeting and unintended gene modification. They used multiple injection needles so that each cell was injected.
Clinical trials and medical treatment on humans in countries where this research is being carried out could be ready in a year or two.
Geniuses and Society
100% effective gene editing of embyros and embryos selection for intelligence would be easily adopted with IVF (test tube babies). There are about 500,000 test tube babies worldwide every year and half are in Asia. Test tube babies are rapidly increasing in China with more older women and the lifting of the one-child policy. There are 40 million couples in need of IVF assistance. China will be heading to 1-2 million test tube babies by 2022-2025. Denmark already has 10% of its babies from IVF.
Researchers collected information on 90 countries to investigate the correlation of intelligence with GDP per capita. They also collected data on the country’s excellence in science and technology—the number of patents granted per person and how many Nobel Prizes the country’s people had won in science, for example.
They found that intelligence made a difference in gross domestic product. For each one-point increase in a country’s average IQ, the per capita GDP was $229 higher. It made an even bigger difference if the smartest 5 percent of the population got smarter; for every additional IQ point in that group, a country’s per capita GDP was $468 higher.
5% of the population with 30 points higher intelligence might be about $14000 more GDP per capita.
5% of the population with 120 points higher intelligence might be about $56000 more GDP per capita.
What would a society with tens of millions of Edisons, Einsteins, Steve Jobs and Elon Musks be like?
Could we get beyond the geniuses of the past and present with gene editing?
By 2050, the gene edited babies of the 2020s would be adults. 5-10% genetic modification or embyro selection of most IVF babies would provide a cost-benefit to nations and to the families.
Recently various wealthy families were found to have paid about $500,000 to bribe Stanford and Harvard for admission for their kids by pretending they had rowing qualifications. Clearly, wealthy people would choose to boost the intelligence of their babies for $50,000 to 100,000.
Genetic modification clinics will be set up on island nations that would want some ten million medical practice.
Editing at 4 Cell Stage Will Be Safe and Effective
Base editing installs a precise nucleotide change in specific gene loci without causing a double-strand break. Its efficiency in human embryos is generally low, limiting its utility in functional genetic studies. Researchers report that injecting base editors into human cleaving two-cell and four-cell embryos results in much higher (up to 13-fold) homozygotic nucleotide substitution efficiency as opposed to MII oocytes or zygotes. Furthermore, as a proof-of-principle study, a point mutation can be efficiently corrected by this method. This study indicates that human cleaving embryos provide an efficient base editing window for robust gene disruption and correction.
SOURCES – Genome Biology, SCMP
Written By Brian Wang, nextbigfuture.com