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  1.  (2207.1)

    Scientists have created the first genetically modified human embryo.

    What does this mean to you?

    Led by Nikica Zaninovic, researchers at Cornell University added a green fluorescent protein to an embryo left over from assisted reproduction. They destroyed the embryo five days later. It is believed to be the first documented genetic modification of a human embryo.

    British newspaper The Times reports that Zaninovic’s feat was announced at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in 2007, but was only publicized recently when the United Kingdom’s reproductive technology regulators reviewed the research. The House of Commons is about to consider legislation permitting this and other controversial reproductive technologies, such as the creation of chimeras — human-animal hybrid embryos.

    The research raises a number of thorny ethical questions. Though adding a fluorescent protein was merely a proof-of-principle step, scientists say that modified embryos could be used to research human diseases. They say embryos wouldn’t be allowed to develop for more than a few weeks, much less implanted in a woman and brought to term.

    If the embryos were allowed to develop, genetic modifications — which would be permanent and passed to future generations — might prevent disease. Modifications might also be used for other reasons — physical appearance, intellectual prowess, personality — though the necessary science remains hypothetical at this point. Developing such techniques would necessarily entail trial-and-error and risk-taking with human life.

    Link via Wired

    Interesting? Yes.

    (is the Roo off my back now?)
  2.  (2207.2)
    @Spiraltwist - Trust me. I'm not half as annoying as my newsfeeder. When I say it's been near constantly bleeping at me for the past hour or so, I wasn't lying. :) At least it's pretty?
  3.  (2207.3)
    That's a picture of an unmodified embryo. It's still pretty, though.
  4.  (2207.4)
    As long as our genetically modified super-humans come with kill switches, I'm cool.

    What do you mean they figured out about the kill switches? Oh Sh-

  5.  (2207.5)
    Genetically modified super-humans vs robot overlords - GO!

    This, at least, might put stem cell research into perspective for some whiny folk....
  6.  (2207.6)
    My dreams of having a glow in the dark baby are finally becoming feasible! This is going to get the Right all up in arms.

    I don't see much of an ethical issue in this sort of use, but I can see where some might think it's a slippery slope. I still think this research should be well funded, the goods of curing some really terrible diseases outweighs the bad of maybe someone misusing it to create a baby with crab claws or something.
    • CommentTimeMay 12th 2008
    This is a technology where intelligent, reasoned debate is vital, challenging, and won't make a pick of difference to the final verdict which will be scare-mongering vs desperate PR from those who understand it. The most comforting fact is that humans can't ever stop technology, only slow it down.

    It's good to scientists moving it forward any way they can - as deniable as possible in this case, with
    a) a simple modification
    b) the parts were leftovers
    c) destroyed shortly afterwards
    d) only announced after the fact.
    Every way they can to avoid the rampaging mobs with pitchforks, while at the same time showing the whole community "See? We did one" instead of fretting about permission.
  7.  (2207.8)
    I still don't think I'm cool with designer babies... Except for certain health issues obviously...
  8.  (2207.9)
    Isn't it still a long way from finding out how to actually modify appearance and intelligence? They should have impregnated someone with that thing. A fluorescent green human would be so awesome! What a sad life he/she would live ostracized from society though, and all for my enjoyment...
  9.  (2207.10)
    I'm all for this kind of thing, but this whole Chimeras thing? That's what worries me. Why bother? Unless it's to find cures for cancer, illnesses, whatever, why make half human/half bat people? It just seems... Crazy.

    Woo, real mad science!
  10.  (2207.11)
    I don't think we need chimeras, but hey, I'm all for scientific freedoms. I'm cool with designer babies too, at least if the parent knows what they're doing when they design their kid. Otherwise you'll end up with an infant with a tumor the size of its outsized head.
  11.  (2207.12)
    why make half human/half bat people?

    No need.

    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2008
  12.  (2207.14)

    That potential human didn't get to decide it's own fate. Imposing your will on those that have no voice is intolerable.
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2008
    I love saying "abomination", but only because I enjoy exaggerating for comedic effect.

    Seriously, this is an early step on the way to some very cool medicine. Imagine the possibilities.

    Of course, I don't think there's anything sacred about human evolution. There are some hard questions to be asked, but genetic experimentation isn't inherently evil.
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2008
    Like everything, the truth lies somewhere in between. That's why the choice/life argument has never and probably will never be solved in a fair forum. Both sides have fair arguments. For many here, one is more appealing here. It's not that either side is wrong, and it's not that either side has some higher moral or social standpoint over the other.

    This is both an advance--it's clear it's an advance, it proves that we may have a leg up on all kinds of genetic disorders that seriously hinder people's abilities to live their lives happily and without pain--but it's also an abomination: whatever embryo that was used had the potential at some time to be life, and it's awful that potential was taken away. Of course, the counter argument is that the embryo was used in a process to give life to eggs that would have previously remained infertile anyway.

    To ask if this is good or bad is to miss the point: it cost us a potential life to (hopefully) improve the lives of thousands, millions, etc. It's a miracle brought with tragedy, and like all things it represents the dual nature of life.

    Not to preach or anything...
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2008
    "Like everything, the truth lies somewhere in between." - I can't agree here, just in general. Truth isn't a way station between opposing viewpoints. I can, however, appreciate the spirit of tolerant compromise that birthed that popular statement.

    That embryo's potential was created in a lab and lasted only until others were selected for implantation instead. It helped us, as a species, learn something. Personally, I find that to be more bittersweet than outright tragic.
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2008

    I don't mean to be a didactic asshole, but I wasn't speaking from personal experience, I was speaking from the standpoint as a philosophy major (for the record, that's an appeal to authority). Empirical truths are one thing, but when you get into morality and politics, the truth tends to remain between the extreme points of view.

    Extreme points of view become distorted. The line between fact and belief blurs as people desperately try and justify the opinions they hold. There's nothing wrong with that--it's something that everyone experiences. The truth remains somewhere between these points of view because each side generally has strong arguments for their respective beliefs, and therefore both must be considered in a fair argument.

    The concept isn't universal, but it's common. You yourself say that losing the potential life is "bittersweet". Isn't that somewhere between miracle and abomination?
    • CommentTimeMay 14th 2008
    Sorry for the confusion. I wasn't disagreeing with your entire post.
    • CommentTimeMay 15th 2008
    I'll be honest: the first thing I thought when I read that they'd injected a green fluorescent protein into an embryo I immediately thought of gengineering glow-in-the-dark folks to save electricity money for night-time wanderings, reading and whatnot. But maybe that's just me...

    In all seriousness, I don't agree with designer babies for aesthetic reasons (or even necessarily for something like autism or Down Syndrome) but for inherent genetic diseases that drastically impact on the quality of life of the individual approve very strongly. I don't pretend I'm well-informed enough to know where to draw the line for these things, though.