Artificial intelligence and human clones. The future has already come.

  • Sep 10, 2019

In the 21st century, humanity is faced with an unusual phenomenon. We are all rapidly changing with time. Not under the influence of external natural factors, not under the influence of natural selection and the force of evolution. We are changing due to the fact that people not only have known the basis of life - the genetic code of a person and other living creatures but also learned to modify it at a will. Many people are terrified. But let's try to figure out if we should be afraid of a world where genetic engineering opens the door.

Genetic engineering came out more than 20 years ago when it gave us the first cloned animal - Dolly the sheep. The creators of Dolly said that the hardest challenge of the technology would be to achieve the cloning of healthy primates and that after the first successfully cloned healthy monkeys, there would be no complications in human cloning.

Over time, technology has improved, and in 2018 China has introduced to the world the first healthy cloned monkeys. Despite all ethical issues, it can be supposed that human cloning is just around the corner. Will this lead to the creation of new full-fledged cloned personalities? It is difficult to say, but some researchers of our time are exploring the possibility of creating a cloned human body, incapable of higher nervous activity, lacking consciousness and personality. An organism that serves as a source for donor organs that will not be rejected, or perhaps even for a head transplant, on a healthy and unbroken body.

Other researchers believe that modern people may not need a new body for a long time, because genetic engineering has already shown its potential in extending life. Animals and humans have already discovered quite a few genes related to aging. In experiments with the daf-23 gene in nematodes, their lifespan was more than doubled, the creation of the mth gene mutation in flies extended their life by 35%, and the mutation in the gene encoding the adapter protein p66shc increased the resistance of mice to stress and extended their life by 30%.

In the last decade, the CRISPR / Cas9 genome editing tool has revolutionized the work with genetic material. 7 years ago it was assumed that with the help of such tools you can only edit the genetic code of microorganisms. However, at the beginning of 2013, several groups of scientists showed that CRISPR / Cas systems can work not only in bacterial cells but also in cells of higher organisms, which means that CRISPR / Cas systems make it possible to correct incorrect gene sequences and thus treat hereditary diseases.

In 2015, Chinese scientists attempted to correct the genome of a human embryo. They took a fertilized human egg with a spoiled gene leading to a blood disease - beta-thalassemia. As a result, in almost every tenth embryo, the mutation that is responsible for the occurrence of the disease was corrected. However, new unexpected mutations also appeared in the embryos. In many countries, editing the genome of human embryos has been banned. However, the technology was not abandoned, but active work has begun to make the tool for editing the genome more precise and efficient. Errors in editing the genome began to occur less frequently, opportunities have increased. Human experiments have already made it possible to force previously failed enzymes to properly perform their functions.

At the end of 2018, the whole world was shocked by the news from China, where children with the genome modified with CRISPR / Cas9 were born. He Jiankui reported that he performed in vitro fertilization and then edited the genomes of the embryos using CRISPR/Cas9. The editing targeted a gene, CCR5, that codes for a protein that HIV-1 uses to enter cells. The twin girls were born by mid-October 2018, according to emails from Dr. He Jiankui to an adviser. He Jiankui said that they appeared to be healthy. When they were born, it was unclear if there might be long-term effects from the gene-editing.

Beyond the purely scientific aspect, the question of how to balance potential benefits against the potential negative consequences must consider the acceptability of the risks involved.