Since the beginning of human history, mothers have had to wait until giving birth before truly understanding what sort of child they'd been blessed with. But genetic engineering has changed everything. First humans discovered how to determine what the baby's gender would be. Later they gained the ability to screen for illnesses such as Autism and Down Syndrome. Now, humans have finally figured out how to actually change a baby's genetic code.
Unsurprisingly, scientists in China are responsible for this breakthrough. As The Verge reports, researchers used a gene editing tool called CRISPR to alter two human embryos down to the genetic level. What was changed? According to reports, the embryos were altered in such a way that they would be immune from HIV in the future. And despite strict laws against this, these two genetically engineered babies were allowed to be born.
There is tons of controversy surrounding this subject. Some experts say that this "gene therapy" is unsafe, and could lead to health problems for babies in the future. There's also the fact that the scientist behind this research used illegal methods. This scientist, named He Jiankui, faked ethical review documents and continued his experiments despite having bans placed on him by the Chinese government. That being said, many claim that the Chinese government is not doing enough, and that their punishment for this crime is actually pretty light.
Regardless, the first genetically engineered babies have arrived. Their names are Lulu and Nana, and they're twin girls. So what does this mean for the future? Will parents be creating so-called "designer babies" a few decades from now? The technology is already here. It works, and the twin baby girls are clear proof of that.
The only question that remains is whether or not it's ethical. The Quint reports, only a few countries, such as Germany, have laws against "germline editing." Where do we draw the line? Most would agree that it makes sense use genetic engineering to cure things like Lyme Disease, Dwarfism, or Deafness.
But what about genetically engineering your children to be physically beautiful? What if you could choose your baby's eye color? What if you could ensure that your baby had genius level IQ? Would you alter all of these things, or would you choose to keep your baby "natural?" Careful, because rejecting genetic engineering could give your child a massive disadvantage - especially if every other parent is doing it. How much will gene editing cost? Will it only be available to the 1%? All of these are important ethical questions that need answering. For now, we'll have to wait and see what happens.