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A new GMO technology could prevent human disease or make designer babies

January 05, 2016

How should we handle the new CRISPR technology that can both advance science and medicine, but also be used to make designer babies? Scientist and author Paul Knoepfler tackles this and other difficult questions related to this revolutionary technology in his new book, GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies, targeted at a broad, lay audience.

Bioengineering, genomics, synthetic biology, and stem cells are changing sci-fi into reality before our eyes. This book will capture your imagination with its clear, approachable writing style. It will draw you into the fascinating discussion of the life-changing science of human genetic modification.

CRISPR technology has been developed as a genetic modification tool in just the last three years, but it has had an oversized impact on science. Compared to past technologies to induce genetic modifications and make GMOs such as plants or animals, CRISPR is dramatically cheaper, faster, and more effective. This opens the door to making a much wider range of GMOs including, most controversially, people who are GMOs.

Most scientists are envisioning these efforts as focused on disease prevention, but others are in favor in enhancement to make "better" human beings. Dr Knoepfler terms these hypothetical designer babies and people as "GMO sapiens". As a result of this technological advance we find ourselves at a historical crossroads. Should we embrace hacking our own human code? "GMO Sapiens" places this question in the appropriate historical and scientific context.

Human genetic modification raises exciting possibilities for science, medicine, and society, but the risks are substantial. In a sense we now have in hand the tools to revolutionize our own evolution. "One of my main goals in writing GMO Sapiens is to educate the public and spark much needed dialogue and debate about human genetic modification", said Dr Knoepfler. "While this is a unique historical moment, most of the public are unaware of this critical juncture." The urgency of the need for discussion and for a book like GMO Sapiens is illustrated by the report of the first creation of GM human embryos, used for research, just a few months ago. If others took the same approach and instead of studying the embryos they implanted them in surrogate mothers, we could see the first GMO sapiens born in the next few years. Are we ready?

This book retails for US$68 / £45 (hardback) and US$28 / £18 (paperback) at major bookstores. To know more about the book visit GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies.
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