Michio Kaku and Gregory Scott discuss different aspects of genetic engineering in the video below. According to Kaku and Scott, parents will soon have different genetic engineering choices to make about their children. In addition, recent discoveries by Yue Shao have yielded a new classification of parentless synthetic human embryos.
With Yue Shao’s discovery, genetic engineers might be learning to grow synthetic human embryos from anonymous stem cells donated from IVF clinics. How far this genetic engineering technology goes remains to be seen.
Michio Kaku and Gregory Scott speak about the ethical concerns of genetic engineering in the Michio Kaku video below beginning at the 29-minute mark. However, Yue Shao’s statements to MIT about the accidental discovery of how to engineer synthetic human embryos out of stem cells raises more ethical concerns.
Apart from Michio Kaku’s video, Yue Shao told MIT the reaction to his “embryoid” discovery at the University of Michigan.
“When I showed the image to the team, everyone said, ‘Wow, we need to figure out what to do,’ At that point, we started to be more cautious.”
Yue Shao was experimenting with methods of growing stem cells to form three-dimensional structures by planting them in scaffolds of soft gel when he discovered an embryo-like structure in his experiment. The embryos lack a heart, a brain, or a placenta because those genetic components were absent from the original genetic material.
Far from Michio Kaku’s discussion about parental choices, now science has the tools to eliminate the parents. They have the materials, but so far, the ethics Michio Kaku spoke of are preventing them from taking additional steps — at least for now.
The decision was made to engineer hundreds of synthetic embryoids for further experimentation and destroy them within two weeks to ensure they are not developed enough they would suffer any sort of fear or pain. Coupled with the fact these embryoids don’t have a brain, that would seem true.
Michio Kaku talks about genetic engineering within the framework of parental choice with professor Gregory Stock of UCLA. Gregory Stock is the author of the genetic engineering book Redesigning Humans. Michio Kaku explores parental decisions within genetic engineering.
“We may have the ability to tinker with our genetic heritage. And then the question is, is that a good thing? Is it a good thing if every parent can begin to choose the characteristics of their children.”
Michio Kaku talks about the ethical questions concerning genetic engineering being placed in the hands of parents.
“OK and speaking about reshaping human life some people get a little squeamish when they think about that. They remember what happened with the Nazis and eugenics.”
Michio Kaku’s point is echoed in current American Genetic Engineering research as well. Michio Kaku’s concern is supported by Yue Shao saying University of Michigan researchers became cautious of the discovery.
Yue Shao explained to MIT how he made a discovery. Yue says the synthetic human embryos developed spontaneously when placed in the structure he made. However accidentally they were discovered, synthetic human embryoids could eventually take genetic engineering decisions out of the family realm Michio Kaku discusses and drop a new human life form into the hands of genetic engineering researchers.
Yue Shao has discovered what could be a path to genetically engineering synthetic human embryos and at least potentially synthetic human beings engineered in a lab.
Michio Kaku did not mention synthetic human embryos in his explanation of human genetic engineering. Instead, Michio Kaku speaks about the odd choices parents would make in choosing characteristics for their child.
For example, Michio Kaku’s guest Gregory Scott mentions that some deaf parents prefer to have deaf children, thus selecting something many would consider a defect. Parents would “want to make these choices.”
Gregory Scott told Michio Kaku about choices that may be available to parents within the next 20 years.
“The genetic screening technology that we just discussed, and there one will not only be screening for genetic diseases which is already done today. It will be done much more broadly, and in a much more nuanced fashion…”
Michio Kaku’s guest Gregory Scott continues with something that might be a bit more concerning: the possibility of selecting temperament through genetic engineering.
“But I believe there will be choices being made in matters of temperament and personality and predispositions that involve manic depression, and other kinds of disorders that are only on the borderline of diseases. Parents will be exerting choices over the genetic makeup of their children.”
As Michio Kaku and Gregory Scott discuss the genetic engineering choices parents might make for their children, including appearance, temperament, and athletic prowess, and even choosing to create deaf children, one must wonder what genetic engineering researchers, and perhaps their future corporate and government sponsors, might want to cultivate in synthetic human embryos.
Yue is a mechanical engineer working alongside biologists on a project to create an environment to grow stem cells. Yue noticed that the stem cells autonomously created something resembling a human embryo. The embryo was imperfect, perhaps because the environment created and cells selected were not designed specifically to grow embryos or fetuses, but the experiment has been repeated, and it is possible for stem cells to develop into human embryos — at least to a point — outside of the womb.
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While ethics, similar to those expressed by Michio Kaku, have deterred some genetic engineering researchers from continuing these synthetic human embryoids beyond a certain point, that may not always be true. The potential for genetic engineering to create parentless, nameless genetically engineered humanity, that could become property, not children in the sense of being parented, opens up the possibility of future abuses.
If Michio Kaku and Gregory Scott’s concern that parents might make strange and diverse choices for their children’s genetics are well founded, what might corporate or government sponsors choose for their parentless children, if such genetic engineering technology is allowed to arise?
Michio Kaku, Gregory Scott, and Yue Shao are all implicating that the question is no longer if genetic engineering possible, but what direction will it take — and who will decide.
[Featured Image by Evan Agostini/AP Images and u3d/Shutterstock]