Are there already genetically modified humans?

Does a person who has a mitochondrial donor count as a GMO human? Technically mitochondria is separate from the nuclear genome and sort of like an organism of its own, but MTDNA does influence health and strength.

Would someone who have received somatic gene therapy count as a cyborg/X-man or is it more akin to receiving an organ donation from yourself?

If you define precisely what you mean by GMO then you will have answered your own question. However there is no reason why anybody else should agree with your or any other definition. As such there is no factual answer to your question.

FWIW in my opinion mitochondrial donation does not count as GM.

One of the more common uses of “GMO” is to describe organisms that contain DNA from another species, specifically inserted there by artificial means. By that definition, there are no genetically modified humans.

The whole concept of GMO is nonsense. We are all genetically modified, no matter how defined. Certain viruses are capable of moving genes from one organism to another and the gene doesn’t care if the source and target are the same species and neither does the gene. The difference is that what we usually call genetic modification is intentional and carried out with an understanding of the effects (but of course, not all possible effects). Also they are carefully studied, unlike all the genetic modification we have been doing for the last 10,000 years.

In that case, could a vaccine be considered a very primitive form of gene therapy?

Well, one interesting bit is that the rise of placental mammals may be due to ancient virus introduction in to the precursor genome:

Some theories credit this to viral genes being transferred to mammalian precursor genomes. I know there’s a cite out there and I’ll try to find it. Viruses may have allowed this fusion of cells in the placenta and the arise of mammals.

I was conceoved the conventional way. That is, my father geneticaly modified a cell provided by my mother, by injecting a bit of his DNA into it. Technically, the same as if it was done in a lab, but my parents would not have been happy about having the process televised.

I hunted around just a bit online and everything I found indicated that “genetically modified organism” (or “food”) was understood to mean modified by artificial engineering means. This is a point about how the term is defined or understood, not a technical point.

I think your “somatic gene therapy” question surely deserves a “yes”. The “mitochondrial donor” question may also count as a “yes” or as a qualified “yes but inadvertently so” depending on what the intention of the donation was and whether people consider intention as part of defining artificiality.

Would somebody who received a bone marrow transplant also be a GMO? Or even an organ transplantee in general? They would have the genome of somebody else in their body artificially.

I’m as pro-GMO as anyone, but I think this commonly-seen attempt to hand-wave away the discussion with the whole “Oh, but EVERYTHING is genetically modified by nature!” argument is disingenuous and counterproductive.

Genetic engineering IS a different thing. It’s a new technology. Let’s own up to that and face it. It could, in theory, be used to do very bad things (as is true with all tools). I appreciate the point that people are trying to make, and it’s a valid one. We DO already eat the genomes of many, many different species, and the changes we’re introducing are really really small, and there’s no good reason to fear them. But I think we can make that point without going so far in the other direction that we are pretending that we’re not doing anything. I don’t think that kind of denial is likely to engender trust in scientific advances.

That’s true. I think while most use of it has been legitimate, and extremely limited within human beings, we should also face the fact that designer babies will probably be made within the next 20 years if not sooner. It’s not a huge step from fixing a kid with ADA to changing their eye color or something.

I think that it’s not so much the genetic modification that gets people on edge, it’s the elective cosmetic modifications that do. It’s like doing plastic surgery on your kid prior to them even being born. It has the same appeal to certain people, stigma to others, and potential dangers of postnatal physical modifications people undergo.

“Extremely limited” meaning exactly zero.

I remember listening to a public radio show about human gene modification via carrier virus. If I’m remembering it at all correctly, a newborn baby (or it might even have been in utero) had a genetic disorder, but a carrier virus was introduced with corrected genetic material (I’m damned fuzzy on the details) that enabled the infant to carry the proper cell genetics to avoid exhibiting the disease.

If so, then, yes, humans have been genetically modified.

(This will also have occurred naturally due to mutations from radioactive exposure, chemicals, etc. The birth defects due to Thalidomide are “genetic modifications.”)

Does thalidomide actually mutate DNA though, or just affect hormones in the womb?

In the finest tradition of science, I’m gonna throw several tedious and minor quibbles at you:

  1. Earlier this year, a Chinese research group used CRISPR to genetically modify human embryos that were leftovers from in vitro fertilization. However, these embryos were destroyed before they could develop very far. In the process, we learned that CRISPR (one of the hot-shit new genetic engineering techniques) works for humans but there were significant off-target effects.

  2. I have no cite, but I’ve talked to several researchers that have used CRISPR to modify some commonly used human cell lines. The first conversation I recall was from a conference I went to a couple years ago, and it seems to have become a fairly common technique.

None of those cases have produced genetically engineered human newborns, however. But I suspect that we’ll see reports of genetic engineering of human embryos to correct specific genetic defects. There’s already pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos for IVF; attempting to repair known defects seems like an easy next step.

Back to the OP, new genetic engineering techniques are a really hot topic in science right now, and are also the subject of a ton of conversations and gossip between scientists. Smeghead and I will be pretty up to date on these techniques since they are usually first used in model organisms like the fruit flies we both use.

The Chinese group experimented on triploids, not viable embryos.