Scientists and ethicists from around the world are warning of the consequences of failing to implement a temporary global halt on gene editing of human eggs, embryos, and sperm.
In a letter to the journal Nature, 18 scientists and ethicists from seven countries called for a global moratorium on the type of gene editing that can result in genetically altered babies. The letter was prompted by a 2018 announcement by a Chinese scientist declaring the birth of the world’s first gene-edited twin babies.
“The 18 signatories of this call include scientists and ethicists who are citizens of 7 countries. Many of us have been involved in the gene-editing field by developing and applying the technology, organizing and speaking at international summits, serving on national advisory committees and studying the ethical issues raised.”
Fears of “designer babies” have been on the rise in the last decade as scientists move closer to producing embryos which have been genetically modified to produce children with specific, desirable characteristics. This vision was once the exclusive domain of Hollywood movies like Gattaca, but now, a future where parents are able to pick and choose exactly how their child’s genes express themselves is eerily close.
Specifically, the group is calling for a moratorium on germline cells—in this case egg or sperm cells—that can then be inherited and “could have permanent and possibly harmful effects on the species.”
“To begin with, there should be a fixed period during which no clinical uses of germline editing whatsoever are allowed,” the scientists write. “As well as allowing for discussions about the technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical and moral issues that must be considered before germline editing is permitted, this period would provide time to establish an international framework.”
From that point on, individual nations will choose their own paths. The scientists predict that some nations may choose to continue a moratorium indefinitely or a permanent ban. They also call on any nation that chooses to allow specific applications of germline editing to first give public notice and engage in an “international consideration about the wisdom of doing so.” The group also calls for a “transparent evaluation” to determine if germline editing is justified and for a nation to gain a “broad societal consensus” over the appropriateness of the editing.
“No clinical application of germline editing should be considered unless its long-term biological consequences are sufficiently understood—both for individuals and for the human species,” the group urges.
In a separate letter to the journal Nature, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that the NIH strongly agrees that a moratorium should begin immediately and last until nations commit to international rules to determine “whether and under what conditions such research should ever proceed.”
“This is a crucial moment in the history of science: a new technology offers the potential to rewrite the script of human life. We think that human gene editing for reproductive purposes carries very serious consequences—social, ethical, philosophical and theological,” Collins wrote. “Such great consequences deserve deep reflection. A substantive debate about benefits and risks that provides opportunities for multiple segments of the world’s diverse population to take part has not yet happened. Societies, after those deeper discussions, might decide this is a line that should not be crossed. It would be unwise and unethical for the scientific community to foreclose that possibility.”
In a response to both letters, the editors of Nature released an editorial describing their viewpoint. “Whether or not a moratorium receives more widespread support, several things need to be done to ensure that germline gene-editing studies, done for the purposes of research only, are on a safe and sensible path,” the editors wrote. The editors called for all proposals and basic research studies using gene-editing tools in human embryos to be deposited in an open registry. Certain countries will have lax laws which could be exploited by “would-be mavericks” and thus there is a need for global laws to prevent and penalize unacceptable research, the editors state.
“The right decisions on human germline modification can be reached only through frank and open discussion, followed by swift action. With so much at stake, that must happen now.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.