A Russian Scientist Dennis Rebrikov wants to use CRISPR to create more gene edited babies and has said that 5 couples have agreed for genetically editing their babies to avoid chances of deafness. The Russian biologist had planned to do gene editing to human embryos and bring them to term. Chinese scientist He Jiankui was the first ever person to produce gene edited babies and claiming that these edits would save the babies by preventing inheritance of HIV from their fathers.
So far gene therapy and genome editing is getting focused on blood, liver and eye diseases. But local delivery to inner ear -> hair cells, to prevent deafness, may turn out to be major https://t.co/vKG1XXaMFc @NatureMedicine #CRISPR @justsaysinmice pic.twitter.com/nsVNJHJQ4v
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) July 5, 2019
Rebrikov has told scientists that five Russian parents were eager to let him edit the genes of their embryos for different and socially loaded reasons which include prevention of the offspring from inheriting parent’s deafness. The parents who are interested in the study was deaf due to mutations in the GJB2 gene. When these parents reproduce, the child is guaranteed to be born deaf. Using the CRISPR technique to edit a copy of the GJB2 gene in the embryo and he wishes to grant the parents a biological child that is not deaf. If he plans to go ahead with the CRISPR technique on human embryos then it seems there is nothing anyone can do to stop him.
The technique is clear and understandable to a common man and that each new baby would be deaf to these parents without the gene editing. Rebrikov has plans to reach out to the Russian government to seek permission for this controversial CRISPR experiment. He thinks that the use of CRISPR is more justifiable medically but it is still a controversial issue. People think that deafness is a condition that does not need to be treated at all however it is a culture that we should embrace and not consider it as a disability. Some medical devices and surgeries which give the deaf the ability to hear are perceived as genocide against the minority group in the minds of people.
In this early stage of CRISPR research, scientists think that we should not risk conducting these experiments on humans unless it is useful in saving lives and that human trials should be done only on embryos and infants where there are minimal loss and nothing to lose as said by University of Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu and that should not be done on an embryo which is going to lead a normal life.