Confession: I used an early version of CRISPR to gene-edit my kids. It did not turn out well.

Confession: I used an early version of CRISPR to gene-edit my kids. It did not turn out well.

I have always had an amateur interest in biogenetics, so when Crispr first came out, I was one of the first to hear about it from Amateur Gene Editing Quarterly, which I have a subscription to. I promptly ordered one of the DIY kits and began editing the embryo of my first child, Dorotea.

My main wish was for my daughter to become a pole vaulting champion. I have always had an interest in female pole vaulting, which some people might find creepy, but I love the balletic aspect of seeing the female form upside down rocketing into the air over a jump. The main changes I designed into her genes were on P4. This is the chromosome that controls balance, arm strength and a little known gland in the inner ear which makes it feel pleasant for a human being to be upside down.

Well, I got the upside down part that I wished for. My daughter has been standing on her head since she was two years old. She walks on her hands like a circus performer. And she is very fond of rolling down hills. But she has shown no interest in pole vaulting.

“No,” she said to me last year when I took her to try outs for the track and field club here in Portvale.

And that is when I first realized my error. The P4 also controls, it turns out, obedience to and respect for one’s father.

“Fuck you,” my daughter says to me on a regular basis. And she is eleven.

Doctors have examined her and informed me that there is no cure for this.

“Dorotea will probably have no respect for you until her mid to late twenties,” they say.

Well, fingers crossed. Meanwhile, let’s talk about my son, Butch.

For him, I wanted to modify his genes so that he would become a fireman or a cowboy. Either one would be fine. I wanted this because, well, the truth is, that’s what I wanted to be when I was a boy. But I grew up to be a tax lawyer. Yes, this amateur interest in gene biology has brought me some fulfillment as a hobby, but I am a very unhappy person. I really wish I was a firefighter. Or a cowboy.

In order to program his genes, I used the CRISPR machine to put a love of fire and an affection for the smell of horse dung in his H9 chromosome, which controls a receptor in the amygdala section of the brain for the senses of smell and touch.

I made his skin extremely resistant to heat and I made his nose very tolerant of poo smell.

I took my 9 year old son to a fire in our city a while ago and was surprised to see that he showed no interest in the men in uniform scaling the ladders and spraying water heroically on the blaze.

“Idiots,” my son Butch said. “They’re gonna get themselves killed.”

It turns out, the H9 is also the gene that exacerbates cynicism and snarkiness. When I asked my son whether he wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up, he answered, “Why so I can move to a red state, vote for Trump and go Broke Back Mountain on my best friend Wyatt?”

I guess not.

He does like the smell of poo though.

“Dad,” he said to me the other day, leading me into the bathroom. “Take a whiff. Are you proud of me?”

Yes, son, I’m very proud of you. And ashamed of myself. Why couldn’t I just let the chips fall where they may? I tinkered with the natural order of things, and now I’m paying the price.

To any parents thinking of using CRISPR to make a designer baby, be careful. Think twice. You might be opening up a pandora’s box with a bit of a stink.

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