Imagine locating a single person who just happens, by natural variation, to have the ability to ward off most strains of a widely feared virus. Then imagine taking cells from that man, learning how they achieve the trick, and then putting that discovery into every human being on the planet!
Well, that’s exactly what scientists would like to do with a variation found in an anonymous gay African-American man known as Donor 45. He has three powerful antibodies that neutralize over 90% of HIV strains. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal says about this:
The HIV antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally. The trick for scientists now is to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone’s body produce them as well.
Did you catch that “or other methods” part of the last sentence? In other words, it’s not inconceivable that, a hundred years from now, you could have this man’s genetic variation incorporated into the whole human race via designer babies.
And if you can confer a benefit to all of humanity from this one man’s rare genetic trait, why not seek out other individuals with rare traits, and bestow them on the whole human race as well?
Think about what Donor 45 means for the future of humanity. He means that, over the next century, scientists will be in an accelerated race to locate individuals with unusual and beneficial genetic characteristics. They will then attempt to isolate those characteristics and spread them rapidly (via vaccine, genetic therapies, or en vitro ) throughout broad human populations. And at some point, this might be not just for the protection of the collective human herd’s general health, but just for fun and profit.
Donor 45, in other words, represents a disjuncture from all that has gone before: he prefigures what evolution-derived scientific insights combined with the technology of mass production are likely to bring us to.
A race of supermen is coming, isn’t it?