I believe that future generations will look back at yesterday’s vote in the British Parliament authorizing mitochondrial transfer treatment for mothers undergoing IVF as the beginning of the human genetic age. Although this particular procedure is limited in scope, this is the first time a state has authorized the genetic manipulation of an embryo in a manner that will be passed to future generations (the bill still needs to pass the House of Lords, which is a certainty). This precedent will likely be determinative in future debates on whether or not to use other genetic engineering techniques to eliminate other debilitating genetic diseases. And once we begin eradicating genetic diseases through processes like mitochondrial transfer, preimplantation embryo selection, and the genetic manipulation of fertilized eggs, we will have the capability of using the same technologies to positively select the genetic traits of our children. The genetics revolution is only beginning, but it will, over time, be as transformative to our lives as the Internet revolution.
If you are interested in learning more, please see the excellent Quartz article linked here and below, this story from CBS News, my Washington Post editorial, and my recent Foreign Affairs article linked here.