Making the case for editing the human genome

In 2018, gene therapy scientist He Jiankui's caused a huge controversy when he announced that he had gene-edited two healthy embryos using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, resulting in the birth of twin baby girls.  He claimed to have edited a gene to make the babies resistant to HIV, although one of the girls has both copies of the gene modified while the other has only one (making her still susceptible to HIV).  Chinese authorities subsequently declared the experiment to be an 'illegal medical practice', and his Hong Kong visa has now been revoked because of his criminal record.

Professor Julian Savulescu believes human embryo editing should be allowed, however only when technology has advanced to far safer levels and in circumstances where it would prevent disease or reduce suffering - He Jiankui's experiment treats healthy embryos as genetic guinea pigs.

Featured read

In this piece for Cosmos Magazine, Savulescu makes the case for editing the human genome. 

Savulescu, J., (2016), 'Why we should fine-tune the DNA of the future', Cosmos Magazine (16 August).

Further resources

Free articles, media links etc on CRISPR gene-editing can be found on our Enhancement page.


Read article in Cosmos Magazine online 'Why we should fine-tune the DNA of the future'

Download article PDF

Further free OUC resources on Enhancement

The Guardian news story on He Jiankui's Hong Kong visa

Professor Julian Savulescu (Oxford Uehiro CentreNational University of Singapore)