While the development of new genome-editing technology that could one day ensure that children do not inherit unwanted diseases and disorders sounds like a magnificent breakthrough, one scientist is warning that the latest technology runs the risk of eliminating future geniuses like Thomas Edison and Stephen Hawking.
According to Dr. Jim Kozubek, author of Modern Prometheus, eliminating conditions such as depression, autism, schizophrenia or Asperger's through the new Crispr-Cas9 human genome editing technology runs the risk of seeing future generations of geniuses wiped out.
Dr Kozubek said a world without depression, autism, schizophrenia or Asperger’s might also mean one without the likes of playwright Tennessee Williams, as figures show that writers are ten times more like to suffer from bipolar than the general population and poets are 40 times more likely to be diagnosed with it.
Dr Kozubek said: “Thomas Edison was ‘addled’ and kicked out of school. Tennessee Williams, as a teenager on the boulevards of Paris felt afraid of ‘the process of thought’ and came within ‘a hairsbreadth of going quite mad’.
Kozubek says that “Darwin showed us that evolution does not progress toward an ideal concept or model, but rather is a work of tinkering toward adaptation in local niches.”
He added that a condition like autism should be thought of as a “gift” that has made its was through human genes for millions of years.
“Before we begin modifying our genes with gene editing tools such as Crispr-Cas9, we’d be smart to recall that genetic variants that contribute to psychiatric conditions may even be beneficial depending on the environment or genetic background,” Kozubek said.
Crispr-Cas9 is a new technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence.
Dr. Kozubek’s rather shocking warning comes as human trials using Crispr are already underway inside the United States.
The first human trials involving the method began in China where oncologists at Sichuan University were the first in the world to insert Crispr edited cells into a patient suffering from an aggressive form of lung cancer.
Last year, British scientists at the University College London used a similar gene editing technique to help a 17-month-old girl with leukemia.
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have recently used CRISPR/Cas9 gene targeting system to mice to treat hemophilia B.