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Scientists in US Successfully Edit Genes of Human Embryos in the First Attempt

Citing certain ethical concerns, the U.S. Congress has made it illegal to turn genetically-edited embryos into babies

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DNA double helix, genes
A DNA double helix is seen in an undated artist's illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute. For the first time, U.S. scientists have successfully edited genes of human embryos. VOA
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  • Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University have successfully edited genes of human embryos in the first such attempt in the United States
  • Engineering human genes in the embryo stage opens up the possibility of correcting their defective parts that cause inherited diseases
  • Oregon scientists successfully repeated the experiment on scores of embryos created with sperm donated for scientific purposes by men with inherited disease mutations

July 29, 2017: Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University say they have successfully edited genes of human embryos in the first such attempt in the United States.

Previously, similar experiments have been reported only by scientists in China.

Engineering human genes in the embryo stage opens up the possibility of correcting their defective parts that cause inherited diseases. The new trait is passed on to subsequent generations.

But the practice is controversial, since many fear it could be used for unethical purposes such as creating “designer babies” with specific enhanced abilities or traits.

Oregon scientists led by Kazakhstan-born Shoukhrat Mitalipov successfully repeated the experiment on scores of embryos created with sperm donated for scientific purposes by men with inherited disease mutations.

ALSO READColour-Changing e-skin to have Robotics Uses: Chinese Scientists

The editing was done very close to the moment of fertilization of the egg in order to make sure the changes would be repeated in all subsequent cells of the embryo.

Scientists have been experimenting with gene editing for a long time, but the availability of the technique called CRISPR rapidly advanced the precision, flexibility and efficiency of cutting and replacing parts of the molecule chains that comprise genes.

Citing ethical concerns, the U.S. Congress made it illegal to turn genetically-edited embryos into babies. Many other countries do not have such regulations. (VOA)

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Transforming Human Race: Human to TransHuman to PostHuman

Is it good to become transhuman and extend life and capabilities beyond normal or it is something which will finally destroy us?

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A transhuman is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities, which are way more than a normal human. Wikimedia Commons
A transhuman is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities, which are way more than a normal human. Wikimedia Commons

By Dr. Bharti Raizada

  • A Trans-human is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities
  • Human Race is changing at very fast pace

Have you ever paid attention to the fact that humans are slowly becoming machines? The number of mechanical and electrical devices, in the human body, are increasing at a fast pace. Even parents of a child need not be humans. They can be agencies, trust, bodies, department etc.

First of all. Lets us figure out, who is a human? Any idea? Think for a minute. What makes us human? Is it our genes, our thinking capabilities, our consciousness, spirituality, physical abilities, look, our erect posture, ability to walk on feet, or something else? As per Merriam Webster dictionary, a human is a bipedal primate mammal.

An extreme form of the transhuman is called posthuman. Wikimedia Commons
An extreme form of the transhuman is called posthuman. Wikimedia Commons
What is a Transhuman?

A transhuman is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities, which are way more than a normal human. Means more intelligence, psychological capability, strength or physical stamina. There is either extension of life, improved quality of life or more capabilities or all of these. An extreme form of the transhuman is called posthuman. Posthuman is a being made up of artificial parts, with minimal or no human attributes remaining.

In stories or fiction, this type of human is called Cyborg or Bionic human or a genetically enhanced human.

Also Read: Analytic thought developed for children with sight disabilities

Change from human to trans human can be achieved by various mechanical or electrical devices, Gene therapy, Artificial intelligence, Nanotechnology, Genetic engineering, Cloning etc. Are you aware that technology is being developed to upload the mind to a computer and print human organs?

Following are the examples of some artificial things which change humans to Transhumans:

Bionic eyes or visual prosthesis

Intraocular lenses/Contact lenses

Artificial voice box

Artificial limbs

Nails/pins in bones

Artificial knees/hips

Neurostimulators

Penile prosthesis

Artificial heart

Artificial heart valves

Pacemakers

Defibrillators

Ventricular assist devices

Transcranial direct current stimulation

Powered exoskeletons

Ear chips etc.

Also Read: New-gen robots to refuel and repair friendly satellites

The difference between humans and technology is narrowing down. Wikimedia Commons
The difference between humans and technology is narrowing down. Wikimedia Commons

So, what are your thoughts? Is it good to become transhuman and extend life and capabilities beyond normal or it is something which will finally destroy us.

How arrogant will we be if we become eternal? Will there be a population explosion on planet earth? Will we still be eating food and reproducing? What about natural resources? Will there be a need to inhabit other planets? What will happen if we all are very high tech and have equal IQ? Who will rule us? How are we going to interact with each other? Will there still be feelings left? Will we still seek eternal happiness?

So, the basic question is what do you prefer? Stay as a human? Or become a transhuman or posthuman? Or something in the middle? And what is that middle? Where will you stop?

Do share your opinion!

Bharti Raizada, M.D. practices Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, USA.