Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time. Wang and Church called MAGE a form of accelerated evolution because it creates different cells with many variations of the same original genome over multiple generations. MAGE made genome editing much faster, cheaper, and easier for genetic researchers to create organisms with novel functions that they can use for a variety of purposes, such as making chemicals and medicine, developing biofuels, or further studying and understanding the genes that can cause harmful mutations in humans.
George McDonald Church studied DNA from living and from extinct species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Church helped to develop and refine techniques with which to describe the complete sequence of all the DNA nucleotides in an organism's genome, techniques such as multiplex sequencing, polony sequencing, and nanopore sequencing. Church also contributed to the Human Genome Project, and in 2005 he helped start a company, the Personal Genome Project. Church proposed to use DNA from extinct species to clone and breed new organisms from those species.
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune cells of its host and weakens their ability to fight off diseases. At the time of He’s experiment, various treatments already existed at that could prevent the fetuses from contracting HIV without the need for gene surgery. Nonetheless, He’s experiment led to one of the first successful births of fetuses resulting from genetically modified embryos. He kept his experiment secret until he uploaded the videos announcing the birth of the fetuses, born as two twin girls. The experiment discussed in the videos was successful, but many scientists criticized the experiment due to ethical concerns with the way He conducted it.