Transhuman Babies and Human Pariahs 189
In the following month, the aforementioned concern materialized when, through the use of
CRISPR, Chinese scientists reported having successfully edited the genes of human embryos for
the first time in history.36 Although the Chinese scientists used non-viable embryos that could not
result in a live birth37 this experiment evidences that it is now possible to genetically edit human
embryos. Moreover, commentators note that in addition to the now infamous Chinese
experiment,38 more experiments involving the genetic editing of human embryos will continue to
take place.39 If germline genetic modifications to human embryos occur in instances in which the
embryos are carried to term, such modifications would pass down to future generations and would
thus have the potential to alter the genetic makeup of the human species.40
The scholarly and regulatory communities have responded to these recent developments.
On April 28, 2015, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, issued a statement
regarding CRISPR and explaining the NIH’s stance against germline modification.41 He stated that
the “NIH [would] not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos” and that the
NIH’s Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee42 “[would] not at present entertain proposals for
germline alteration.” 43
In December 2015, about 500 ethicists, legal scholars, advocates, and scientists converged
at a summit in Washington D.C, to craft guidelines addressing the genetic engineering of humans
through technologies such as CRISPR.44 The group, however, did not condemn the Chinese
experiments, and instead chose to discuss the broader ethical and clinical issues involved.45
In February 2016, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a
statement encouraging the Food and Drug Administration’s consideration of allowing clinical
investigations of MRT with certain limitations.46 However, although the therapy has not been
36 David Cyranoski & Sara Reardon, Chinese Scientists Genetically Modify Human Embryos, NATURE (Apr. 22,
38 The scientific community was so shocked by this experiment that reputable scientific journals Science and Nature
refused to publish the study due to ethical considerations. Sarah Knapton, China Shocks World by Genetically
Engineering Human Embryos, TELEGRAPH (Apr. 23, 2015),
39 Lanphier et al., supra note 22.
40 See Andrews, Annas & Isasi, supra note 13, at 160-61.
41 Statement on NIH Funding of Research Using Gene-Editing Technologies in Human Embryos, NAT’L INST. OF
HEALTH (Apr. 28, 2015), https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/statement-nih-funding-research-using-gene-editing-technologies-human-embryos.
42 “The Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee is a federal advisory committee that provides recommendations to
the NIH Director related to basic and clinical research involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules.”
Biomedical Technology Assessment; Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, NIH: OFF. OF SCI. POL’Y,
http://www.osp.od.nih.gov/office-biotechnology-activities/biomedical-technology-assessment/hgt/rac (last visited
Apr. 10, 2017).
43 Statement on NIH Funding of Research Using Gene-Editing Technologies in Human Embryos, supra note 41.
Despite the NIH’s position and the stance of the scientific community, the first U.S. experiment on the genetic
editing of embryos took place on July of 2017. See Steve Connor, First Human Embryos Edited in U.S., MIT TECH.
REV. (July 26, 2017), https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608350/first-human-embryos-edited-in-us/.
44 Sara Reardon, Global Summit Reveals Divergent Views on Human Gene Editing, 528 NATURE 173, 173 (Dec. 8,
46 Clinical Investigations of Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques are “Ethically Permissible” If Significant
Conditions are Met, Says New Report, NAT’L ACAD. OF SCI., ENGINEERING, AND MED. (Feb. 3, 2016),