Friday, August 04, 2017

Altering Heredity, Designing Humans--Serving God Or Playing God?

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Associated Press is reporting, "First embryo gene-repair holds promise for inherited disease."

AP says, "In a surprising discovery, a research team led by Oregon Health Science University reported Wednesday that embryos can fix themselves if scientists jump-start the process early enough."

Is this New Age of altering genes and designing humans an attempt to serve God, or play God?

Dr. George Daley, the dean of Harvard Medical School, told AP, "I for one believe, and this paper supports the view, that ultimately gene editing of human embryos can be made safe."

Although he was not involved in the research, he says, "This is definitely a leap forward."

However, Daley says "the question truly becomes, if we can do it, should we do it?"

This reflects the comments and concerns of many in the medical field---but not all.

AP says, "Gene editing, in theory, could rescue diseased embryos. But so-called 'germ-line' changes---altering sperm, eggs or embryos---are controversial because they would be permanent, passed down to future generations. Critics worry about attempts at 'designer babies' instead of just preventing disease, and a few previous attempts at learning to edit embryos, in China, didn't work well, and, more importantly, raised safety questions."

No question permanently altering a gene line is serious stuff---and certainly, safety is very important; but the even more important question in my mind and the minds of others is the ethical question.

At what point do we abandon serving God through medicine, and attempt to become God through medicine?

I am aware that Christians hold different views regarding medicine, medical procedures, and healing.

I personally believe that Jesus Christ is the Great Physician and that God is the Healer. Sometimes He heals by the laying on of hands through prayer (James 5:4) and sometimes He heals through the hand of medical professionals who continue to discover His Truth regarding our body.

The significance of the OHSU discovery is that they came up with a different approach. Simple by medical research standards.

It's called CRISPR-Cas9.

For those of us who are not in the field of medicine but want to be informed, the OHSU people targeted a gene mutation that causes a heart-weakening disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, that affects about 1 in 500 people. Inheriting just one copy of the bad gene can cause it.

The team programmed a gene-editing tool called "CRISPR-Cas9", which acts like a pair of molecular scissors to find that mutation---a missing piece of genetic material.

Normally cells will repair a CRISPR-induced cut in the DNA by essentially gluing the ends back together again.


The researchers say we all inherit two copies of each gene, one from dad and one from mom---and those embryos just copied the healthy one from the donated egg.

Most researchers say this is a great first step---but toward what?

The next logical step will be to test the procedure during pregnancy. That opens a new frontier. Designer babies.

While taking this step is prohibited by law in both the UK and the US, it isn't in many other countries.

Pressure to leap forward with this is coming from several camps---not the least of which is the homosexual community. In fact, there is an advocacy organization supporting this procedure for lesbians. I've written about it in the past.

Earlier a medical scientist from OHSU made international news by going to Mexico to help 2 lesbians "create" a 3 parent child.

Johns Hopkins bioethicist Jeffery Kahn and Britain's Dr. Lovell-Badge say, "This is very elegant lab work, but it's moving so fast that society needs to catch up and debate how far it should go."

Both say if germline editing ever were allowed, it should be only for serious diseases with no good alternatives and done with strict oversight.

Lovell-Badge says "What we do not want is for rogue clinicians to start offering treatments that are unproven, as happened with some other experimental technologies."

Dr. Mitalipov, who leads the OHSU team is offering reassurance.

He says "If embryos prefer self-repair, it would be extremely hard to add traits for "designer babies" rather than just eliminate disease."

He says, "All we did is un-modify the already mutated gene."

I don't know Dr. Mitalipov's personal beliefs, but I do know that the first ethical debate in the history of the human race began with a question regarding God, and whether He really had the last word in human affairs---and there was that possibility of "becoming as God."

It made sense to Eve, I trust it won't to us.

Be Informed. Be Faithful. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful.