The shocking news that a team of scientists working in China have managed to gene-edit the DNA of recently-born human twins to allegedly make them genetically immune to a HIV infection is more than bizarre and irresponsible. It suggests that certain researchers are making dangerous experiments to create ultimately the eugenics master dream—custom-designed humans. I call them Golem babies because when technology begins cutting and splicing the human DNA without certitude that the result will be stable or healthy to the human species it is not healthy.
In medieval and ancient Jewish folklore a Golem is a being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter such as mud. Golems have no soul. Similarly, the China experiment that claims the “first successful genetically modified humans,” when we go behind the surface stories, is alarming in the extreme.
First of all the public story retailed by Chinese media and by the researcher, Chinese Professor He Jiankui, a Stanford University post-doctoral research graduate, doesn’t ring honest. He, who is professor at Southern University of Science and Technology, claimed at a Human Genome Editing conference in Hong Kong on November 28, and on YouTube, that he had successfully modified two embryos produced from the sperm of an HIV-positive donor and implanted them in a healthy mother, who gave birth to twin girls earlier this month. He used the most common “gene-editing” tool, CRISPR-cas9, to deactivate a gene called CCR5 that acts as a ‘doorway’ to allow the HIV virus to enter a cell. He basically claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited humans, and announced that a second woman was pregnant with another of his gene-edited embryos.
Other scientists have severely criticized He for engaging in the human gene altering experiments. What He claims he did, to alter the DNA of human embryos, known as germ line gene editing, means the changes in those genes could be passed on and inherited by the next generations. Moreover, as several scientists involved in developing CRISPR have warned, He is in fact changing the human gene pool. “We may not be able to see the impact of this until several generations later,” said Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, chairman of Chinese University’s Department of Chemical Pathology.