We can eliminate deafness in babies via gene-editing…but should we?

A year after a scientist edited the genes of an embryo to reduce the chances of HIV, another wants to do the same to ensure a baby isn’t born deaf. Thoughts?


Back in 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui made international headlines when he edited the DNA of a baby, thereby ensuring it didn’t inherit its father’s HIV. According to (disputed) research, the team managed to edit the solitary gene that makes individuals susceptible to smallpox, cholera and HIV. From that embryo, twins were born, who are very much alive.

One year later and the genetically-altered baby question has become rather more complex, as one Russian biologist wants to use the same methodology to eliminate deafness in the youth of tomorrow.

Rebrikov already has two volunteers in mind, who are both deaf due to mutations in the GJB2 gene. According to New Scientist, when two people with those mutations reproduce, their child is guaranteed to be born deaf. He hopes to edit a copy of the gene in question, and problem apparently solved.
It’s also worth mentioning that such a process is legal in Russia, and you could argue that this instance of gene editing is more justifiable than the first example, and therefore he’s more legitimate than the shenanigans of He Jiankui.


Many have argued that deafness should be embraced, not eliminated. The case can be made that those who do not have the ability to hear often live full, healthy lives; and other scientists believe that the editing of genes should solely be restricted to those embryos or infants facing the direst of situations. The University of Oxford’s Julian Savulescu stated that we, “…should not be starting with an embryo which stands to lead a pretty normal life.”

But with all that being said, what do you think? Yay or nay?



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