If we want to shape the future, we should stop waisting energy on ignoring the evident developments that will come. Besides man-maschine combinations (cyborgs), genetically enhanced humans will certainly be living on this planet, soon.
When will it happen?
Even the German Ethics Council concluded in a statement in the summer of 2019 that the human germ line is not sacrosanct. It advocates future interventions in the germ line, provided the method is sufficiently safe and effective, under three circumstances: 1) to prevent serious hereditary diseases, 2) to reduce the risk of disease, and 3) to specifically enhance human characteristics and capabilities (enhancement). The effectiveness and safety of the method still requires some research, especially the so-called mosaic formation has to be counteracted and it remains a current ethical challenge that for a genome analysis a cell has to be destroyed at present. Therefore, it is currently difficult to detect the desired change in the affected cell. One must wait until the cell divides. For animals, however, cloned female germ cell cultures have already been successfully created. With this, the altered germ cells can be multiplied in cultures and individual ones can be tested for success. Only then would the successfully edited cell nucleus be introduced into an egg cell. One could be sure of the successful modification of the gene sequence without interfering with of an embryo. Once this technology is available the last resentiments will fall.
How will it happen?
Genetically modified people are people in whom a genetic modification has been made in the fertilized egg, sperm, or stem cell. It is possible that gene sequences are switched off or those of other people are inserted. The aim ca be to prevent diseases, mitigate concomitant circumstances or to “design” healthy, especially beautiful, resistant, fast, smart or strong children. Through the use of virus taxis there are ways to specifically place certain gene sequences in all relevant cells in a living human. The virus would then deliver the placed gen sequence into the cell DNA instead of its reproductions sequence.
What will be the outcome?
The difference to the selection of a sperm donor in the sperm bank or the external fertilization of a selected mother with the sperm of a selected father is not spectacular from a purely genetically point of view. The same result can be achieved with targeted breeding. Of course, the selective intervention leaves uncertainties of interaction with other gene sequences. But to a certain extent, even this cannot be predicted at present in natural reproduction. Mutations that create completely new genetic combinations are also commonplace and an important part of evolution. There are also known cases in which people themselves – often caused by very strong experiences and traumas – subsequently auto-activate or deactivate certain genes.
Ethically, one can argue about the path of active intervention by humans, but conceptually genetic modifications based on other human DNA is nothing new. The result of the mentioned procedures is a conscious modification of the genetic make-up of a human being from the human gene pool.
Next week we will open a can of worms. Transgenetic beings have DNA combined from humans and other beeing. The possiblities are endless.