Experimenting on human beings was one of the atrocities of Auschwitz. It seems that China may be experimenting along these lines (ala genetic engineering), but with embryos. Chinese scientists have once again made headlines, this time with their gene-editing research. The laboratories in China have been reported to be using fertilized human embryos for gene alteration tests. Most researchers and ethicists oppose this kind of testing, not just because you are playing with human lives, but because there can be deadly consequences of gene-editing.
Along with ethical deviations, there are legalities which are in question as well. From the standpoint of modern advancing research and disease prevention, gene investigations are well based. Gene alteration has been shown to enable some prevention of inherited diseases, making it less apt for the children of diseased adults to inherit their disease, and less likely to pass it to succeeding generations. We have long known the possibility existed for this type of research to progress, and some experiments came about in order to treat disease by repairing associated genetic defects, but the drawbacks are huge.
Junjiu Huang, a lead scientist on the project says the genes of fertilized embryos are injected with a substance called CRISPR-Cas9. With the transformation of the genes when the scientists let them briefly develop, results can be verified. From this information, we can assume the living human embryo is allowed to live for awhile, but then is terminated. Altering the natural development of the human race can be crossing ethical lines!
Two respected journals, Science and Nature, have refused to publish these laboratory results on ethical grounds. The Christian Science Monitor states the unpredictable can happen. Dr. Craig B. Thompson, an American cell biologist and Director of the National Cancer Institute, states that most people don’t acquire a significant higher risk of cancer from the genes that they inherit from their parents. Instead, cancer can arise as a result of “copying errors” (mutations) in inherited genes.
The laboratories practicing these gene-alteration experiments do not have assurances that they will not cause mutations! Unexpected activity resulting from injection of CRISPR-Cas9 can cause genetic mutations. The bottom line is that invading the natural order of things isn’t always the best idea. The science of the human body is of a magnitude that can overwhelm the most dedicated researcher. Playing God through human embryo manipulation (genetic engineering) may not be such a good idea.