A team of Chinese scientists has claimed to edit human embryonic genes to make them HIV-resistant, the second published experiment of its kind. Is China beginning to embrace genetic modification and human cloning?
In 2015, another team of scientists in China reported successfully editing the human genome through the use of the CRISPR technology. This works by editing certain parts of the DNA to hopefully address numerous disease such as the Zika virus, blood diseases like thalassemia and autism.
With the scientists in China paying extra attention to gene engineering and human cloning, it seems that they look forward to the potential of being the first nation to advance in the treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection and other diseases, which were once dubbed untreatable.
It Lacked Medical Justification
Critics said that the new study lacked medical justification and cited ethical considerations accompanying gene modification. A Japanese bioethicist, Tetsuya Ishii, said that the research was merely just playing with human embryos.
Only four of the 26 embryos in the study were successfully modified. Most of the embryos also incurred unplanned mutations, a side effect similar to the findings in the research done in 2015. The researchers destroyed all the embryos after three days.
A professor of biological chemistry at the University of California, Dr. Peter Donovan, said that the study was both a success because the researchers were able to modify four embryos, but also a disturbing experiment, since 22 embryos others had negative effects.
The failures accompanying these studies show that the new method, CRISPR gene-editing, may not be ready to be used on human embryos.
Human Cloning: Pros and Cons
Human cloning could help the medical field in a lot of ways. Cloning could renew damaged tissues and grow new cells to replace them. This will allow scientists to create genetically identical organs that could be used in transplants for kidneys and bone marrow.
On the other hand, there are potential risks of human cloning. When there are identical genes, genetic diversity is limited and this can weaken the ability to adapt to various circumstances.
Ethical Issues Governing Cloning And Gene Modification
Since the term human cloning was coined, a lot of critics have long been questioning the ethics of the process. Many believe that this could lead to the eradication of one's individuality and humanity's diversity.
Others believe that experimenting on embryos for clinical purposes is unacceptable. Though scientists agreed that using viable human embryos in research should not be banned, editing the DNA for the sole purpose of experimentation should not be allowed.