Committee for genetically optimized organisms. Part III. (37/52 -Terraism)

Illustration by Susanne Gold/ text by Ted Ganten
In this clip you will get more information on “Terraism”. Download the full book.

How are we preparing for a time when trasngenetic beings will live amongst us? In Part I and II we looked at the different form of genetic optimization using gencodes from other humans or other organisms. How long will it take until these opportuinites realize?

Are humans already genetically optimized?

Only a few interventions on humans have become known so far. A Chinese researcher, who at least claims to have genetically instilled resistance to AIDS in his two children, has already been mentioned. In medicine, research is being conducted on the treatment of monogenic diseases and the germ line. Its application is being publicly discussed. Once again, we would like to refer to the very detailed statement of the German Ethics Council of June 2019, which states that in the case of monogenic diseases, there is an error in a defined gene sequence that certainly leads to a disease pattern during adolescence or at a later stage. The correction of a germline mutation in the BRCA1 gene, for example, could reduce the breast cancer risk of a woman affected by this form of familial breast cancer from about 75% to the “normal” about 12% of the female general population. Even better: after the gene has been altered, such woman’s female children would also no longer be exposed to the extraordinary breast cancer risk. In this way, hereditary diseases could be “eradicated” or at least reduced in number. Would you wish for these possibilities for your child?

What is the obstacle?

This is not yet being done (publicly) because it would probably take a few attempts at the moment to have a fertilized egg with the successfully edited gene. And one could only take a sample cell at the embryonic stage, after cell division for verification purposes. But even in the case of “normal” in vitro fertilization, there are procedures (so-called pre-implantation diagnostics) in which fertilized eggs are not used and are disposed of. The threshold for application can therefore no longer be very high and depends largely on a social consensus as to when life begins and how interventions at this early stage are balanced against later burdens in life. Do we really believe that there will be a worldwide consensus for decades that no one questions or chooses to ignore? From monogenic to polygenic gene editing to enhancement, there are only many, tiny steps.

When will we see the first transgenetic humans?

However, this would not yet be transgenic interventions in humans. Such are also not known up to now. But there are already thousands of transgenic beings produced by mankind – some of which are patented. With plants it is already widely known, but also with animals it is already common. A pig breed was created with the growth gene sequences of the housefly. They grow rapidly and generate enormous amounts of meat per unit of feed. Genetically modified goats produce an active substance in their milk that inhibits blood clot formation in humans. This so-called molecular farming is now a major emerging industry. Because of the ease of ethical justifications often these technologies start in the health industry. Should the patient die or …? And again, we humans are not the first to be transgenic. The solar-powered sea snail Elysia Chlorotica forms the leaf pigment chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis, in its own skin. The necessary gene sequences are taken from the alga Vaucheria. What if we could do the same? We could generate a significant part of our nutrition through sunlight on our green skin. What would that mean for the planet?

When we will take that last step in trasngenetic modification is unclear. However, the push and the opportunites are mindblowing. I will discuss some of the theoretical possiblities next week. In the light of the aforesaid I would not be surprised if someone somewhere would already be experimenting in the dar. The technology is not a closed book.

Kommentar verfassen