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Chinese scientists draw a very big step closer to human genetic manipulation

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Just when you thought that the worst that scientists could do in genetics was make GMO-laden vegetables or two-headed snakes, a team in China has been able to manipulate the ultimate genome: that of humans. In a lab, they were able to alter a gene within a human embryo, something that religious, political, and even scientific leaders have pronounced as a red line in the sand for the meddling hands of man.

Now, eugenics is back on the table… if it were ever really taken off. It’s on the political table even though most had assumed that it was clearly removed decades ago. It’s back on the religious table as people of faith decry the possibilities of messing with God’s creation. It’s even on the cultural table, but that’s where the real disagreements take place. There are plenty of people who would embrace this type of research if it meant finding a way of prolonging life, perhaps indefinitely.

“The positive side is, it allows regular biologists to change the DNA in any organism. The negative side is, it allows regular biologists to change the DNA in any organism,” said Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church. “You can twist any technology into something bad.”

That “something bad” has been detailed in numerous science fiction books and movies. In nearly all of them, it never turns out well when man makes “better” men. As it was reported in the LA Times:

CRISPR/Cas9 makes it possible for nearly any scientist to edit DNA in nearly any cell. In the last couple of years, scientists have used it to edit genes in adult human cells, including bone marrow cells that may be modified to make people resistant to HIV. Researchers have also used it on animal embryos, including an experiment that proved it was possible to create primates with customized versions of genes involved in immune function and metabolism.

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