My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why Dr. Kathy Niakan of Francis Crick Institute Gene Editing means Automated Human Birth

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why Dr. Kathy Niakan of Francis Crick Institute Gene Editing means Automated Human Birth

“We would really like to understand the genes needed for a human embryo to develop successfully into a healthy baby. The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they’re not very well understood.”

Dr. Kathy Niakan, Researcher at the Francis Crick Institute to use CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing to improve Invitro-fertilization

Gene Editing is now a legal area of research in the UK.

On Monday February 1st 2015, the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) granted a license to Dr. Kathy Niakan and her team at the Francis Crick Institute to edit the human genome using CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat) as reported in the article “UK scientists gain licence to edit genes in human embryos”, published 01 February 2016 by Ewen Callaway, Nature.

This technically makes the U.K. the first jurisdiction in the world to approve the controversial practice of altering the DNA of embryos, beating the US of A as reported in the article “U.K. gives scientists permission to Edit DNA in Human embryos”, published February 1, 2016 by Lulu Chang, Digitaltrends.

The aim of to allow UK scientists a chance to better study the CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat), RNA-guided gene-editing platform as hinted in the article “Scientists get 'gene editing' go-ahead”, published Monday February 1st 2016 By James Gallagher, BBC News.

So what exactly is CRISPR-Cas9 and how can it be used in gene editing?

Dr. Kathy Niakan the gene editing license from HFEA – A splice in time by CRISPR-Cas9

CRISPR-Cas9 a protein that is derived from a bacteria, Cas9 which can be used to splice in a new DNA strand at a specific point in DNA molecule in a Genome. The video below explains it a bit better.

Research into Genome editing will be carried out by Dr. Kathy Niakan and her team at the Francis Crick Institute seeks to better understand the importance of genes in the earliest stages of human development.

So no, no designer babies as per the promise of Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader at the Crick Institute, quote: “I promise you [Dr. Niakan] has no intention of the embryos ever being put back into a woman for development. That wouldn’t be the point. The point is to understand things about basic human biology. We know lots about how the early mouse embryo develops in terms of how various cell lineages give rise to the embryo or to [other] tissue that make up the placenta. But we know very little about how this happens in the human embryo.”

Still, it's totally possible as this video below explains.

So why is this research into genome editing begin conducted by the UK?

HFEA gives Crick Institute permission to study genome editing - How Human birth can be automated

Not sure why the US of A dropped the ball on this, despite leading the way with GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) such as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) giving permission for AquaBounty Technologies to market their GMO AquaAdvantage Salmon to the public as noted in my blog article entitled “AquaBounty Technologies GMO AquaAdvantage Salmon – Why GMO Salmon in the Wild will be an Ecological Disaster”.

Rather than implant gene edited ovum into women to come to term, the aim is to study the developement in the first week of the gene edited ovum (and sperm?) during the first week after fertilization. Their aim is to study the formation of blastocyst, the 200- to 300-cell structure critical to human development, specifically as it relates to invitro-fertilization.

This is important as only 50% of fertilized ovum become blastocysts after invitro-fertilization. Of that number, only 50% can be implanted into the womb of the egg donor and interestingly, only 50% make it past 3 months. To put that in numbers, of 100 ovum used in invitro-fertilization, only 13 ever have the potential to become babies.

This makes invitro-fertilization technology as it currently exists a very wasteful process and makes the automation of human births i.e. growing humans outside of the womb impossible.

Genome Editing can automate human Birth - Artificial wombs and AI computers for Interstellar travel

Scientists are therefore hoping to potentially use CRISPR-Cas9 to improve the odds of these eggs becoming babies and thus make the process of invitro-fertilization more efficient and possibly automated.

CRISPR-Cas9 thus not only has the potential to fix errors in the human genome and usher in the age of designer babies. It can potentially free women from having to give birth in the first place.  By using CRISPR-Cas9 to improve the chances of ovum from a woman surviving after implantation, it can potentially be expanded to implantation into artificial wombs.

This has huge importance for interstellar travel, as humans cannot live that long in space. But ova and sperm can, allowing humans to colonize distant stars and galaxies by sending our genetic material to distance stars n space ships.

Artificial wombs and AI computers can be used on board these interstellar nurseries to control the reproduction and birth of future humans to colonize these distant worlds. Hence the true long-term importance of their research; to develop artificial wombs, freeing women from childbirth and advancing interstellar travel.

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