USA - First Human Gene-Editing Trials

Arno Froese

The powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR has been in the news a lot. And not all the news has been good: A Chinese scientist stunned the world last year when he announced he had used CRISPR to create genetically modified babies.

But Scientists have long hoped CRISPR—a technology that allows scientists to make very precise modifications to DNA—could eventually help cure many diseases. And now scientists are taking tangible first steps to make that dream a reality.

For example, NPR has learned that a U.S. CRISPR study that had been approved for cancer at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has finally started. A university spokesman confirmed for the first time that two patients had been treated using CRISPR.

There’s an important difference between the medical studies under discussion here and what the Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, did. He used CRISPR to edit genes in human embryos. That means the changes he made would be passed down for generations to come. And he did it before most scientists think it was safe to try. In fact, there have been calls for a moratorium on gene-editing of heritable traits.

For medical treatments, modifications are only being made in the DNA of individual patients. So this gene-editing doesn’t raise dystopian fears about re-engineering the human race. And there’s been a lot of careful preparation for these studies to avoid unintended consequences.

“Every human on the planet should hope that this technology works. But it might work. It might not. It’s unknown,” says Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago. “This is an experiment. So you do need exquisite layers of care. And you need to really think in advance with a careful ethical review how you do this sort of work.”

-www.npr.org, 16 April 2019

Arno's commentary

While we highly respect medical science and applaud their various achievements of life-extending (death-postponing) treatments, we have to highlight Laurie Zoloth’s statement: “…you need to really think in advance with a careful ethical review how you do this sort of work.” All medical research and medicines are restricted by the Hippocratic Oath of a physician, “Do no harm.”

Here we also must emphasize that medical science has greatly contributed toward the life expectancy of people these days. Statistics from the year 1900 show the average life expectancy in the USA stood at 43 years. It rose to 78.7 years in 2016, although slightly decreasing during the last three years (Canada: 82.3 years).

One thing remains clear: the Bible says, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:10-12).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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