April 17, 2018

  By Gonzalo López Martí    Creative director, etc    / LMMiami.com

  • Plastic surgery has been around for several decades now.
  • What began as a technique to repair scarred tissue gradually evolved into human sculpting for aesthetic purposes.
  • The goal: to increase the self-esteem of the “patient”.
  • The very definition of a placebo since, obviously, the resulting wellbeing is purely psychological.
  • A smaller nose or higher cheekbones have no health benefits whatsoever.
  • Discussing plastic surgery can be a minefield of political incorrectness and societal taboos.
  • Plastic surgery is, pretty much by definition, the industry of making people look younger and whiter.
  • Whiter as in more Caucasian, more European.
  • If possible, Northern European.
  • And richer.
  • Because, you know, one can never be too rich or too thin.
  • Culture changes.
  • And it changes fast.
  • Not too long ago, however, being fat was a trait of the rich whilst being skinny was a symptom of poverty.
  • Obesity meant sedentarism: the lifestyle of bankers and bishops who could afford to the intake of animal protein and sugar.
  • A lean body signaled that the person did physical toil, in other words, that he or she was poor.
  • In the far east, to this day a toned body is regarded as “low class” because it signals physical toil.
  • Remember the “heroin chic” look of the 90s?
  • The cultural tide might be turning.
  • Again.
  • The last couple years, plastic surgeons have made a killing by increasing the size of millions of female rear ends.
  • A body contour that used to be a signature feature of Latinas and African American women.
  • Way to go.
  • Anyhoo.
  • Plastic surgery is about to become an anecdotal thing of the past.
  • Like jenga or paperback books.
  • Introducing "Human germline gene editing" or "human germline modification" means deliberately changing the genes passed on to children and future generations – in other words, creating genetically modified people.
  • Human germline modification has for many years been widely considered off-limits, for both safety and social reasons.
  • It is formally prohibited in more than 40 countries (a list that does not include the US).
  • In recent years, the new generation of genetic engineering techniques known as "gene editing" or "genome editing" has prompted speculation about their use in human embryos or gametes.
  • In 2014, rumors intensified about researchers in the US and China working on human embryos with the inexpensive, easy-to-use gene editing tool known as CRISPR.
  • In April 2015, a research team at Sun Yat-sen University in China published a report of an experiment in which CRISPR was used to edit a gene associated with the blood disease beta- thalassemia in non-viable human embryos.
  • A second experiment was reported in April 2016, with a different research group in China using CRISPR in non-viable human embryos to alter a gene associated with resistance to the HIV virus.
  • The experiments were largely unsuccessful.
  • But as gene editing tools are refined in labs around the world, they are expected to allow easier, cheaper, and more accurate insertion or deletion of genes than ever before.
  • This controversy marks a new chapter of a far-reaching debate about the future of gene editing in humans.
  • If perfected, somatic gene editing (or "gene therapy") holds promise for helping thousands, if not millions of people who suffer from all sorts of sicknesses, life-threatening or otherwise.
  • Which begs for the question: what makes a person sick?
  • What exactly is a disease?
  • Is aging a disease?
  • What traits, conditions or individual particularities can be considered illnesses?
  • How about male pattern baldness?
  • Flabby abs?
  • What about, say, morning laziness, low athletic inclination, a sweet tooth conducive to weight gain, a distaste for algebra, indifference to art or an inability to sing and dance?
  • Will be all allergic or “intolerant” to something someday?
  • What would you do if you had the chance to tailor the complexion, pigmentation, facial features or height of your offspring in order for them to have a “better future”?
  • Is death an inevitable progression of life or is it a disease that should be cured?
  • Will we soon erase “death by natural causes” from our vocabulary?
  • Speaking of song and dance, a few months after George Michael’s death at his home in England on Christmas day of 2016, the specialist in charge of his autopsy, Oxfordshire's senior coroner Darren Salter, officially declared that the artist had died of “natural causes”. He was 53. The report describing the reasons that took the pop star’s life included a fairly common heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis -which might be made more severe by the sustained use of alcohol and drugs- and “a fatty liver”.
  • To conclude: whatever the future brings, editing the genes of human embryos in order to create genetically modified people will certainly raise grave safety, social, and ethical concerns ranging from the prospect of irreversible unexpected harm to the health of future children and generations, to concerns about opening the door to new forms of social inequality, discrimination, conflict and a new era of eugenics.

 

 

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