LEXINGTON, KY (Dec. 27, 2018) - The world of human genome editing was turned on its head last month when a scientist from China claimed – on YouTube, no less – to have created the first gene-edited babies. He Jiankui, an assistant professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, announced that he used a gene editing tool called CRISPR on two embryos in hopes of making them resistant to HIV.
With the birth of these twin girls (and an alleged third pregnancy underway), Jiankui flung the theoretical world of gene editing firmly into the middle of a bioethical firestorm, and the fallout from his actions are likely to affect how science is conducted and policed for generations to come.
The "genes are out of the bottle," says Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D., professor and founding director of the University of Kentucky's Program for Bioethics. "Assuming that [Jiankui] is telling the truth – and we don't even know that yet, since we've seen no data – the implications of his actions for both the science community and for these girls and their offspring are profound."
In this episode of "Behind the Blue," Rosenthal discusses the controversy surrounding Jiankui’s claims and the implications when science gets ahead of ethical principles.
In addition to running UK’s Bioethics Program, Rosenthal also directs UK HealthCare's clinical ethics consultation service and the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science's Research Ethics Consultation Service, also known as "benchside ethics" consults.
Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.
For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email BehindTheBlue@uky.edu or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue.