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19 - Two Healthy Baby Girls?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2021

Eben Kirksey
Affiliation:
Deakin University, Victoria
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Summary

“Gene surgery and regular IVF actually aren't too different,” says embryologist Dr. Jinzhou Qin on the He laboratory's YouTube channel. Beakers and other laboratory equipment are visible in the background as he walks through the relatively simple steps. “In a regular IVF lab we usually start by retrieving eggs,” Qin explains, “and care for the embryos for three to six days before finally returning them to mom.” As the camera cuts to a microscope with two long needles pointing into a shallow dish, he continues: “Very simply, right after we inject sperm, we use another fine needle to inject the fertilized egg with CRISPR-Cas9 and instructions for surgery.” Maneuvering a joystick and spinning a knob brings the needles close to the egg in the dish. Under the microscope viewers see an iconic image of IVF. One of the needles has a blunt tip, and a gentle suction holds the egg tight. The other needle, smaller and sharp, penetrates the egg. As Qin places the dish in an incubator, a machine that looks a lot like a microwave oven, he says, “By the time the fertilized egg becomes three or four cells, the gene surgery is already finished.”

Another YouTube video outlines some ethical principles for gene surgery with CRISPR. Dr. He says it should be used “only for serious disease, never fantasy.” Setting himself apart from some of the individuals and institutions supporting his research, he says: “We should not use it for increasing IQ, improving sports performance, or changing skin color.” Another video explains why he chose CCR5, saying that the safety of working with CCR5 is supported by “decades of clinical trials.” He does not mention Sangamo by name, nor the pioneering HIV-positive activists in San Francisco, but claims that he was inspired by “the first gene-editing trial in the United States.” Resistance to HIV would have “real-world medical value,” he declares. Perhaps the experiment would actualize a big dream shared by people all over the world: a cure for the deadly virus.

Some of Dr. He's claims in these videos are misleading. In his signature announcement to the world on YouTube, he says: “Two beautiful little Chinese girls, named Lulu and Nana, came crying into the world as healthy as any other babies.”

Type
Chapter
Information
The Mutant Project
Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans
, pp. 206 - 215
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Two Healthy Baby Girls?
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.020
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  • Two Healthy Baby Girls?
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.020
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Two Healthy Baby Girls?
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.020
Available formats
×