CRISPR babies, not so breaking news?

nyt front page news

Never at the top of front pages (Nyt, 27 Nov. 2018)

Twenty days after the announcement, many questions remain. The one certainty seems to be that the first  CRISPR babies are less breaking news than expected.

They will be in front pages again, probably, if and when the scientific paper gets published, if and when the baby-editor He Jiankui resurfaces, if and when the first photos of Lulu and Nana are circulated. But if the coverage of Dolly the sheep is considered in comparison, there’s no match. Why?

The media world has changed dramatically in the meantime, CRISPR is still unknown to many, China is perceived as a Wild East where anything can happen. But a sheep is always a sheep, and babies are babies. We should care about the first edited kids more than that. Maybe people are less troubled by human genome editing than most bioethicists. Perhaps the media have had enough of Gattaca, Frankenstein, and the likes. Did we cry wolf too often yesterday to get people interested today?

The art of learning from microbes

ecoli-1184pxBy Antonio Polito

Do you remember Dolly, the sheep cloned 20 years ago? I was one of the many going on pilgrimage to visit her in its golden prison at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh. And like other reporters I was worried while talking with Dolly’s “father” Ian Wilmut, about practical and ethical implications of the breakthrough, which appeared huge at the time. Media were boiling with awe and outrage: is human cloning the next step? It would be evil or blessing? Are we playing God?  Continue reading