The world is a crazy place. I thought that studying natural sciences was a way I could make sense of the world we live in, but the more I learn, the more questions I have, especially about bioethics.
When He Jiankui announced the birth of the first babies last month, edited with CRISPR to be HIV-resistant, the world was appalled. A promising and remarkably intelligent student, his actions were well-intended yet delusional. The potential ramifications of human embryo editing are vast, ranging from setting back gene therapy for decades to opening a Pandora's box of DIY biology that flouts rigorous safety standards.
I can't help but marvel at Jiankui's simultaneous obliviousness to regulations and advice and bold spirit of this endeavor. There's no question that his work was premature. He attempted to delete the gene encoding CCR-5, which is HIV's primary route to infect human cells, but the now-born CRISPR babies, Nana and Lulu, exhibit mosaicism, meaning that HIV-resistance isn't even 100% conferred. Many experts advised him not to do this, but he did regardless.
His story is a thoughtful exercise on societal responsibility to limit the entrepreneural spirit. Left unchecked, even if well-intended, I wonder what the world would look like--most likely the result of a bevy of long-term consequences.