What are Crispr Babies?

The birth of the world’s first genetically edited babies, also known as Crispr babies, has been met with outrage and dismay from many in the scientific, ethical and moral fields. Developed from the CRISPR / Cas9 gene editing technique, Crispr babies are human embryos that have had their genetic code modified, in what many deem as a radical and potentially dangerous experiment.

In November 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world when he announced the birth of two genetically edited babies, Lulu and Nana, who, using the Crispr technique, had their genes modified by their father, Dr. He. The two were born with mutated CCR5 gene, which enabled them to be resistant to the HIV virus, but also sparked criticism and outrage, with many in the scientific world raising alarms over the potential risks, ethical and moral concerns raised by such an act.

Since then, the World Health Organization (WHO), World Federation of Scientists, and many other organizations have called for further research and stronger regulations when it comes to the developing and use of gene editing technology. But that has not prevented the discussions around the “what” and “why” of Crispr babies from emerging, sparking debates and fears about what the future of this form of gene editing holds.

What is the CRISPR / Cas9 Gene Editing Technique?

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) / Cas9 (CRISPR associated system 9) is an advanced gene editing technique that uses a genetic scissors tool to precisely delete and modify genes within an organism – humans included. Developed in 2012 and named as the “breakthrough of the year” in 2015, the gene editing technique has made it possible to make rapid and inexpensive gene modifications, bringing gene therapies for a range of disorders, such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease, closer to reality.

The technique works by using sequence-specific genetic “scissors,” which edit the DNA at a specific location that the scientist chooses. The genome editing toolkit consists of 2 main components: the Cas9 protein and the guide RNA (gRNA) molecule, which directs the Cas9 protein to recognize and cut a specific point in the DNA sequence. Once the sequence is cut, the Cas9 protein is replaced with a piece of DNA that could be a gene, a specific sequence of one or more genes, or a few deleted DNA base pairs. This is how genetically modified babies are created.

The Pros and Cons of Creating Crispr Babies

When it comes to the controversy surrounding Crispr babies, it is worth considering the potential benefits, while also scrutinizing the potential risks associated with genetically modifying human embryos.


· The most common argument among those who support the use of Crispr babies is the potential to eliminate genetic diseases and conditions. Dr. He’s efforts to create two HIV-resistant babies, while deemed as unethical and dangerous, are an example of the potential to use gene editing to cure serious illnesses.

· Crispr babies could also make it possible to create perfectly tailored human beings, who could be spared from the burden of genetic illnesses and conditions.

· The potential to clone human beings and create entire strains of genetically modified individuals is also a benefit that some see in the controversial field of gene editing technology.


· The potential for conflicts of interest is quite high, because Crispr baby technology can be used to create a “designer” human being, potentially creating a situation where a powerful individual could modify genes to suit their own preferences.

· The unpredictability of the technology is a major risk when it comes to gene editing. This is due to the fact that any given attempt to substantially alter genes is likely to cause unknown and unintended outcomes, potentially causing grave harm.

· Another serious issue is that of safety and the potential for this technology to cause harm to future generations. As with most technologies, developing the tools and protocols needed to enable Crispr babies need to be carefully investigated and controlled, to make sure that negative consequences are mitigated.

· There are also ethical and moral considerations to be taken into account when it comes to Crispr babies, as we need to think about the implications of creating a perfect human species, while not making sure to also protect non-genetically modified individuals.

The advent of Crispr baby technology is a potentially groundbreaking advancement when it comes to gene editing, and offers exciting possibilities for the treatment and prevention of genetic diseases, as well as offering a way to create custom-made individuals. However, the risks and ethical implications associated with this technology should be more carefully evaluated, as we need to make sure that all forms of gene editing procedures are done safely and responsibly.