We should not fear ‘editing’ embryos to enhance human intelligence, says leading geneticist George Church

We should not fear 'editing' embryos to enhance human intelligence, says leading geneticist George Church

One of the world’s leading geneticists says it will only be a matter of time before the genes of  human embryos are ‘edited’ to enhance their health and intelligence – and it is something we should embrace rather than fear.

George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, said the current controversy surrounding the editing of human embryos was overblown and compared it to the short lived moral panic that preceded the introduction of IVF or “test tube babies” in the late 1970s.

Interviewed for a feature in this week’s Telegraph Magazine Church, who made his name as part of the international team that first mapped the human genome in 2003, said he was less worried about gene editing being used to enhance human intelligence than the technique being restricted to a privileged few. He predicted it would eventually be “adopted worldwide”.

“I just don’t think that blue eyes and [an extra] 15 IQ points is really a public health threat,” he said, “I don’t think it’s a threat to our morality.”

In November, a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, shocked the world by announcing he had used CRISPR-Cas9, a genetic editing tool Church helped pioneer, to disable a gene called CCR5 in the embryos of twin girls to make them resistant to HIV.

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