In previous article, there was demonstrated how genetically-engineered humans could be created from skin cells and grown inside a human-made support system called the artificial womb. In summary, the method involves reprogramming human skin cells and turning them into embryonic stem cells. The embryonic stem cells are then converted into sperms and egg cells that are used to create viable embryos. These embryos are subsequently engineered using CRISPR-cas9 to introduce new genetic traits and remove anything undesirable. Finally, the healthiest embryo is then chosen to be implanted into the artificial womb. You can read the previous article for more details.
In today’s article, I’m going to demonstrate why we need to start applying these procedures on humans and bring designer babies into existence. I will enlist the reasons below, but before you continue reading you need to keep an open mind.
THE TECHNOLOGY DOESN’T EXIST
That’s not entirely true. If you have read my previous article, you will notice that every step of this procedure had already been done. Nothing about this method is really far-fetched. We already know how to convert skin cells into embryonic stem cells. We also have adequate knowledge on converting embryonic stem cells into sperms and egg cells. Not to mention, the artificial womb has already been tested on animal models for several years now. As for CRISPR-cas9, we have used it multiple times to update the human genome and eliminate undesirable mutations. So, what’s really holding us back? It’s 100% feasible.
WE ARE PERFECT THE WAY WE ARE
You have probably been led to believe that humans are the perfect “creation”. Nothing else is missing. We have been “made” this way for a purpose that we have yet to understand. But in reality, there are so many imperfections about our bodies that can only be fixed by redesigning ourselves. Over 6000 genetic diseases, cancer, malaria, birth defects, you name it. Considering that we have the technology that could fix these problems (CRISPR), fixing them becomes an obligation. After all, it is our best chance to end pain and suffering caused by imperfections in our evolution. It’s going to be an evolutionary leap that will help us to overcome the limitations of our biology.
DON’T PLAY GOD … DON’T CHANGE NATURE
Who owns the right to create a new generation of human beings with the ability to defy the laws of nature? Some people would argue with you that “only God” has the right to do so. After all, humans shouldn’t play “God” or interfere with what nature placed on Earth. Whatever nature gave us, we should accept it the way it is. I strongly disagree with such statement.
People preaching this rhetoric are the same people who go to hospitals when they get sick. What do you call that if not defying the laws of nature to fix a health problem? Why don’t they let nature take its course of action instead of using medications? I guess we all understand by now that medicine is one of our primary ways of ending suffering and restoring our health to its normal states. Whether it’s against the course of nature or not, people just don’t care. They want to stay healthy. And once they’re healthy, some of them deem the process as an act against nature.
Yes, there should be a limit for how much we change in nature, but such limit can only be determined through experiments. We conduct experiments to learn what’s wrong from what’s right, what’s bad from what’s good. We can’t assume anything without trying. And once we notice something wrong in the outcomes, that’s when we draw a line never to cross it again.
THE WORLD IS ALREADY FULL OF PEOPLE
The world is already full of people, so why bring many more? Over 7.5 billion people live in the world right now. Isn’t that enough? After all, Earth’s resources cannot sustain this incredible number of people!
I actually think this should rather be used to support the argument that we desperately need designer babies now more than ever. By 2050, the world population is projected to reach nearly 10 billion. That’s an additional 2.5 billion who are as ordinary as any of us. Apart from getting sick, they will have zero tolerance to antibiotic resistant bacteria, which are on the rise. They will experience the true pain of cancer, Alzheimer’s, malaria, influenza, birth defect and every possible disease that could have been treated or prevented before their birth – if they were redesigned from scratch.
As you can see, the longer we delay the inevitable, the more people will be born with serious medical conditions that could be hard to treat after birth. So, the best time to test this is now before population explosion gets out of control more than it already is.
DESIGNER BABIES ARE THE NEW EUGENICS
People often confuse Nazi eugenics with genetic engineering. Nazi eugenics attempted to create the perfect specimen by exterminating fully grown human beings who had the right to live but were deemed to have “inferior traits”. That’s a crime against humanity. There is no question about it. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, is perfecting an embryo long before it even develops into a child. Is that a crime against humanity? Let’s ask bioethicists who influence the rules and the laws behind such experiments.
Gene editing of human embryos is becoming widely accepted by more and more nations. China, the UK, the United States, these are just some of the countries that have begun using CRISPR-cas9 to create genetically engineered human embryos.
Before allowing such experiments to happen, authorities in these nations needed a clear statement from an advisory board whose main responsibility is to investigate the ethical concerns of such experiments. And clearly, no bioethicist with the right mind would give such experiments a green signal if they knew they would cause more harm than good.
CRISPR LEADS TO UNWANTED MUTATIONS
A small study suggested that CRISPR gene editing might actually lead to unwanted mutations. This is serious because it means that designer babies will have birth defects. So, we’re back to square one: creating the same problem that we intended to fix.
The same study was later refuted by a group of scientists who provided technical details on why it shouldn’t have been accepted for publication in the first place.
As of today, CRISPR remains the most precise gene editing tool ever created in human history. And with more discoveries, scientists are finding more and more molecules that enhance the precision of this technique. So, it’s premature to assume that CRISPR causes “hundreds of unwanted mutation” without a large scale study that involves scientists from multiple disciplines.
PHASING OUT UNWANTED TRAITS
Consider the following example. Jack was born in a small village where young people represent 30% while old people represent 70%. Old people were born at times when schools didn’t exist. So, they can hardly read and write. Jack, however, is among the lucky ones who were born at a time where schools existed. He is very well educated!
In 40 years, the old uneducated people would disappear, leaving behind the educated younger generation. This will help the village to start new projects led by a new generation of educated individuals. In just a few short years, the tiny village will be transformed into a place where healthcare, education and social services are provided to everyone. All thanks to a new generation of people who are aware of how things can be done.
The same can be said for designer babies. You and I will are ordinary members of the human race. We have our limitations. For a time being, we will work side by side next to a new race of intelligent human beings who are capable of things we would have never imagined! They will be smarter, stronger, free of genetic disorders and can help us solve complicated problems that our generation couldn’t. Climate change? Space junk? Deep space travel? Unlocking the secrets of the universe? They will do it! After all, we genetically programmed them to become better than us.
By the time we’re gone, designer humans would take over and assume responsibility of the planet. Ordinary humans will be phased out, leaving behind a new generation of human species that can accomplish the impossible.
WE WILL ACCELERATE DEEP SPACE TRAVEL
In my previous article I mentioned who designer babies could help us reach for the stars. The dream of journeying into the farthest regions of the cosmos will finally come true.
“Tardigrades (or water bears) are tiny creatures renowned for their ability to withstand extreme conditions such as space radiation, extreme pressure (six times the pressure of water in the deepest point of the ocean, the Mariana trench). In addition to surviving in the vacuum of space, these creatures can turn themselves into glass to survive complete dehydration. Scientists discovered that these organisms produce a protein that protects them against damaging X-rays. They identified the gene responsible for synthesizing this protein and introduced it to humans cells. The results were incredible! Human cells became more resistant to X-rays and can now suppress X-ray induced damage by about 40%. If we could integrate this ability to a fully grown human being, we would overcome the danger of space radiation and travel to deep space with minimal risks.” ~ Hashem Al-Ghaili
ONE VIRUS CAN DESTROY THEM ALL
I met Prof. Alexander Meissner, who is a researcher at Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. We briefly discussed the topic of designer babies. He argued that if we genetically programmed all humans to be the same, a single virus could wipe them out! It does make sense because they all share the same gnome. Let’s examine that statement.
If you genetically engineer two humans to have the exact genome and then place them in two different environments, each one of them will begin to adapt to the conditions of that environment. These adaptations will also affect their genomes, leading to slight variations in the way their genes are organized. That’s how evolution works. Over the course of many years and after several generations, their descendants will have completely different genomes from their parents while retaining the good traits. So, there is hardly any chance for a single virus to exert the same effect on genomes that have slight visitations.
Assuming that we are capable of designing human embryos from scratch, I think it would not be logical to make them all the same. Slight variations would still be necessary to avoid such scenario. If the whole process of redesigning them is entirely under our control, I don’t think it would be impossible to implement such genetic variations.
YOU CAN’T REDESIGN EVERYONE
When people hear about the possibility of creating genetically engineered human beings, they think it would finally be possible for them to engineer themselves and get extraordinary capabilities. As I mentioned in my previous article, there is a huge difference between engineering an embryo and engineering an adult human being. Genetic engineering works best on embryos because the number of cells is so low that you can edit all of them with minimal efforts. However, adult humans already have trillions of cells (37.2 trillion cells), editing all of them at once with our current technologies is near impossible. And it probably won’t be achievable for many decades to come. So why care when you can’t be engineered?
Not being able to engineer everyone might be a temporarily situation. You can’t engineer fully grown humans now, but it could become possible in the future.New discoveries will make it possible to effectively engineer every living cell in our bodies. Just like how viruses work. They replicate and move from one cell to another editing them one by one. But by the time such tools are perfected, we would have learned a great deal from our experience with designer humans. We wouldn’t need to wait for decades to gather that knowledge. Furthermore, we will be living next to a new generation of humans who are smarter than us and capable of solving the world’s most complicated problems. They will help us find new solutions to accelerate the process of engineering everyone.
THE RISE OF THE ELITE
These is a group of people who fear that bringing designer babies into the world might lead to the rise of the elite, a select group of humans who are superior in terms of ability or qualities than the rest of us. They would be treated differently. In other words, more discrimination. Being more intelligent, they would get all the jobs they want. Being more attractive, they would get all the partners they want. Being more serious about their jobs, they would be the richest among all of us. That’s unfair, isn’t it?
More importantly, the elite already exist, and that doesn’t bother most of us. We have a huge gap between the rich and the poor in today’s world and no matter what you try to do about it, it will remain like that for as long we exist. So, a similar gap between ordinary human beings and superior designer humans won’t be anything new to us. We’re already experiencing something similar.
I had the privilege of meeting Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Randy Schekman. I presented the idea to him and explained how it could be done. While he thinks it could theoretically be done, he believes it could trigger an endless debate to the point where it might not be approved at all.
Despite everything I mentioned above, we should proceed with caution but not abandon the idea completely. Designer humans are our best chance at eliminating diseases and helping future generations to live a happy healthy life. I believe the time has come to form committees consisting of high profile and trustworthy bioethicists who will study this from every angle and help us reach concrete conclusions before moving forward. We need to start discussing this and every group should present what they have. Whether you agree or disagree with the concept, there is need for immediate discussion based on logic, reason and rational thinking.