Creating genetically modified people is no longer a science fiction fantasy; it’s a likely future scenario. Biologist Paul Knoepfler estimates that within fifteen years, scientists could use the gene editing technology CRISPR to make certain “upgrades” to human embryos — from altering physical appearances to eliminating the risk of auto-immune diseases. In this thought-provoking talk, Knoepfler readies us for the coming designer baby revolution and its very personal, and unforeseeable, consequences. (Official Ted Talks web site).


Who is he?:

Knoepfler is a leading voice in the discussion about how CRISPR could be used to make designer babies and the risks of going down that path. He is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at UC Davis School of Medicine in California, where he both does research and teaches. (Op Cite).

Why you should watch:

Dr. Paul Knoepfler loves stem cells. He is working to figure out how we use safely them to treat many diseases and how stem cells sometimes turn to the dark side to cause cancer. Over the years he has made key discoveries about how stem cells and cancer are programmed. Now he is especially interested in how to hack these cells to control their behavior, including using powerful CRISPR genetic modification technology.

In addition, he is a prolific writer including his popular science blog, The Niche, and two books: Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide and GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies. He is excited about contributing to efforts to build an innovative, global community of interconnected people with a shared passion for biomedical science and battling fake science. Knoepfler’s outspoken, approachable nature in tackling some of the most transformative questions in science has made him a go-to scientist for journalists and ordinary people across the globe. (Op Cite).

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was the recent event in china that he reported?
  2. What actually is CRISPR?
  3. What is your reaction to the ethics of genetic modification to produce “designer Babies”?
  4. One of the features of technology is that it often gets cheaper over time (like the commuter that once cost thousands of dollars and now cost a few hundred). As CRISPR becomes more available at a low price, speculate about how it might be used?
  5. How might it be misused?
  6. Through CRISPR we can eliminate all heritable diseases. A good thing, right? We could create super athletic, super intelligent, super soldiers, still a good thing? If another nation decides to go in the direction of super soldiers, must we?

Making Connections:

He talks about the genetic modification of genes with CRISPR. What is CRISPR and how does it work:

The Ethical Dilemma of Designer Babies with Paul Knoepfler


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