In the past few weeks, the news of Chinese scientist He Jiankui germline editing twins of a HIV positive couple in vitro has raced around newsfeeds. He edited the CCR5 gene in the twins in an attempt to create resistance to HIV. He used a gene-editing tool called CRISPR (which is short for: Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). CRISPR is regularly used in genetic engineering in controlled lab contexts, but how it fares in the wild is unknown. Bill Gates has been enthusiastic about the possibilities of future applications of CRISPR to address various ‘Third World’ health and development problems.
That He used CRISPR on humans and how he did it, have fueled discussions about bio-ethics and genetic engineering. One of the best reviews of the ethical issues surrounding the CRISPR-ing of the embryos comes from Ed Yong writing in the Atlantic. For those consumed with questions of ethics in emerging new technologies, the history and development of ethics in genetics and nuclear energy management are great first ports of call.
This week I went to a speculative design workshop about CRISPR-Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) hosted by Emilia Tikka, a Berlin-based artist and designer whose practice deals with the philosophical and cultural implications of biotechnologies, at STATE Studio.