The gene editing technology CRISPR/Cas9has paved a new path forward for us from eliminating diseaseandfixing pests,to restoring lost abilities the process is expected to graduateus into a new age of medicine. But it begs the question, can we make ourselves better? Can we improve our intelligence inthe advent of gene engineering?
The answer might just be a resounding yes.
The Cognitive Genomics Projectis focused on understanding the origin of intelligence within our own genome. Its lead by BGI, a non-profit research group based in Shenzhen, China, that was founded in 1999. The organization is currently conducting a gene-trait association study of g, a general factor of intelligence. General intelligence is defined by three prominent categories: stability, heritability, and predictive powers. In short, the study is collecting genetic data from over 20,000 individuals who have an IQ above 150, and looking for patterns in their genes.
While this might seem relatively straightforward, its actually a complex and difficult task. Thats becausegeneral intelligence does not follow mendelian, single-gene genetics. Researchers cannot simply look for specific mutations in specific genes, as they do for diseaseslike Huntingtons Disease or Cystic Fibrosis. Rather, intelligence is more similar to traits like eye color and hair color that involve multiple genes in inheritance patterns that we are just beginning to understand.
It remains to be seen how effective gene editing can be at influencing traits like personality and intelligence in peoplewhose brains have already been formed. One way we could avoid the gene editing process entirely is by genetically designing intelligence into our children from conception. We could utilize in vitro fertilization and carefully process the genetic information of each embryo produced for genetic preferences.
If the Cognitive Genomics Project provides significant data supporting thecorrelation between particular parts of the genome and intelligence, then parents can look for these genetics sequences in potential embryos and select the embryos with the desired traits. This method would increase the probability of intelligent children without having to edit particular genome sequences.
While the ethics of human genetic engineering continue to be debated, we may be closer to a more intelligent humanity than ever before.
The rest is here:
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