tv Charlie Rose PBS August 4, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
>> charlie: welcome to the program. today "the washington post" released transcripts of contentious phone conversations between president trump andñi to worldñi leaders. i'll talk to dan balz of the "washington post." theçó portrayal of the new port, president, as you said, being unhappy, concerned about his own image, talking at cross-purpo'% with two leaders of allies, ofñr neighboring mexico and australia i. i mean, they are remarkable documentsñr of what the trump presidency started as for so long has continued has. >> charlie: and then dan miller, the reporter who broke the story, and then we assess the impacts. >> you read the transcript of the conversations, and he's always putting donald trumpñi$zq
he's referring to himself repeatedly throughout the calls. everything is viewed through the prism are you making me look good or are you making me look bad? >> charlie: we continue with a fascinating story about gene editing in human embryos, including a conversation with the man who led the successful experiment. >> so this is really a big deal. this is the closest that we have comeñi to being able to genetically modify a human embryo. and it was quite a successful experiment or series of experiments that the team did. that tells you that the ability successfully is probably not all that far off. >> charlie: inside white house conversations and a scientificñr breakthrough when we continue. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by the following:
>> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: we begin this week in washington. "the washington post" has obtained the full transcripts of two of president trump's calls with foreign leaders shortly after taking office. the calls with the leaders ofñr mexico and australiaçó portray a new president, seemingly more concerned about politics than policy. that all comes asçóçó general john kelly, president trump's chief of staff, tries to bring order from the westñr win.
joiningñr us dan balz. >> this was the quiet leak. there may be evidence of that at kelly, but these transcripts have exploded. i mean, we had so many readers on the transcripts this morning, when they first broke. remarkable reporting by my colleague greg miller. the portrayal of the new presidentñr as the president, as you said, unhappy, concerned about his own image, talking at cross-purposes wit with leadersf allies, mexico and australia. it'sñr what the trump presidency has continued as. >> charlie: take me through what you find remarkable. >> on the call with the mexican
president, it's fascinating, trump's recognition that his promise that not only would he build the wall, but that mexico would pay for it was something that was never going to happen. what he was seeking was some accommodation with the mexican president to quitñi talking abot it, to quitñr saying we will ner pay for your wall.çó he said at one point this may be the least important thing we are talking about, but the most important politically. i think he was probably correct in that -- in that judgment about it. and that call went on and on and on about that. iñr mean, there was a lot about his desire to put a border tax on, his desire to be very tough on mexico on trade. but at its heart it was, in a sense, pleading for an agreement to take the payment of the wall, who was going agreement to take the payment of the wall and who was going underwrite the cost of the wall. and in some ways he succeeded on
that. i mean there's been very little talk in recent times about mexico paying for that wall. and in fact, his big challenge right now is getting congress to begin to pay for the wall, let alone mexico. >> rose: and they keep asking questions as to what appropriations will be used for what? >> right, i mean, this will come up when everybody returns from the recess in september and they have to begin to get the budget put together. but that's his big challenge now. on the call, with the australian prime minister, i think what was so fascinating on that, charlie, was the way in which they were talking past one another. the australian prime minister was trying to explain to the new president sort of the basis of the arrangement or the agreement that had been made with the obama administration to accept some of the refugees who were in detention camps in australia. and trump not wanting to have anything to do with it.
and the conversation went back and forth with assurances that you don't necessarily have to take any of these people. you can vet them, we have vetted them, we know who they are. they are being kept in detention camp because they came by boat and we are trying to discourage smugglers from bringing refugees into our country. but the president was only concerned that it would make him look weak as a new president as somebody who had instituted the travel ban. and so this conversation, was this circular conversation in which the president became more and more frustrated and clearly the australian prime minister was more and more frustrated and it just kind of ended abruptly with no agreement to the agreement. >> rose: here is what the president of the united states said to the prime minister of australia. malcolm, why is this so important? i do not understand. this is going to kill me. i am the world's greatest person
that does not want to let people into the country. i mean we have never heard a president talk like this in terms of the public. and now we have in private but released in transcrypts, not released but obtained. >> obtained, right. you know, i think one thing we should all recognize is that the readouts that all administrations give of the calls between a president and a, you know, the head of government or the head of state of another country are pretty well sanitized. and we know that there are tougher conversations that go on that we only perhaps hear about but never see. here we have the actual documentary evidence. and so it is a remarkable inside view of what really goes on when these conversations are not friendly and cordial. to say these were candid and frank which is, of course, sort of the diplomatic nice tee, you say this was a tough conversation, is an understatement in these t candid frank, but to see the
frustration of the new president of the united states with -- you know, with two friendly countries just tells you a lot about his own mindset as he was coming in, as to the way he saw the world, the way he saw himself, the way he saw what he was believing he had to live up to as a result of the campaign. and he was getting no real accommodation from either of those two leaders. >> charlie: in fact, sometimes being mildly -- or gently corrected. >> well, more than mildly and gently, certainly by the australian prime minister.
it was, no, if this happens, it will make me look weak, i can't do this. why are you forcing me to do this? obama made this agreement. obama made lots of terrible agreements, and on and on and on. it was in a sense the donald trump we see in public sometimes, or certainly we see through his tweets. it's interesting, and probably a little bit alarming, it's that kind of conversation that he has in a private conversation with a foreign leader. >> charlie: then he endorses -- he endorses a dramatic reduction in legal immigration. >> yes. and after saying that he was -- he was planning to get -- and would get -- tough on illegal immigration, but not necessarily shrinking legal immigration. i think that there's no real evidence that this legislation has significant support on captol hill. we've heard in the aftermath of what the president did yesterday in endorsing it, embracing it,
is a lot of pushback from capitol hill. on the other hand, it is the kind of signal that president trump regularly and consistently sends to the people who voted for him, and particularly for people who voted for him on the america first agenda, or the get tough on immigration agenda. whether this goes anywhere or not, it is -- it is a reembrace of those voters who will hear this as donald trump is doing what he said, he is trying to do what he said, and he's speaking for me, because i'm upset about the way the immigration process has worked. legal or illegal. >> charlie: for someone, a nonpolitician, he seems to understand very well the idea oo protect your base. >> i think that's instinctive with him. i think that -- you know, it's one of the reasons he was far
more successful as the candidate than a lot of traditional politicians and observers and journalists and commentators ever expected. i mean, he tapped into something as we know almost from the start of his campaign back two years ago. i think people, a, didn't appreciate it. and b, certainly underestimated it. so he's had that kind of instinctive bond with a part of the country that remains very strong. and those visceral feelings that he has, he's able to express as president, and continue to play to that base. you know, there's some slippage in his approval ratings over the last few weeks. those approval ratings have gone down. even some of the, you know, supporters who you would say form that base, there's a quinnipiac poll in which he's down somewhat with white
noncollege educated voters. but i think when he does this kind of thing it does reinforce with a lot of those voters that he is -- he is thinking of them, and he's on their side. >> charlie: then there's the other legislation that he looks at, which is showing the conflicts he's having with congress, the russian sanctions, russia, iran, and one other. basically he signed it reluctantly, he said in the name of national unity, suggesting that he thought it had constitutional questions, and suggesting that he had real disagreements with it. >> well, we know he had disagreements with it. we know that he had to sign it. it was passed so overwhelming by congress. and it was passed, in essence, as a way to tie his hands. and congress effectively did that, and forced him to sign it. and his signing statement made clear his disagreements with parts of it, suggesting parts of it are unconstitutional. but also, just the peek that he
showed into the personal statement that he made about i built a great company, i can make better deals than anybody, congress shouldn't get in my way, and what we saw with an early morning tweet was him saying our relationship with russia is at an all-time low and congress is to blame for that. we've seen in the last couple of days the russians tweaking president trump for this legislation, suggesting that he has been overwhelmed and overrun by the political establishment in washington. and obviously all of that is kind of -- you know, kind of bothering him, eating away at him. so what we saw yesterday in the signing of this was a signing that was not, as he often does with the television cameras there, no public statement, but a great deal of dissatisfaction. you know, it's one measure, one indicator, that there is the
beginning of some more concerted pushback on the part, not only of democrats, you know, put them aside at this point on that, but among republicans, that republicans are in a variety of ways saying to donald trump, we're going to do what we think is best, we are the legislative branch, a coequal branch, and we're going to express ourselves, and sometimes it will be in disagreement with what you might want to hear from us. >> charlie: i assume that's best expressed also in the healthcare bill, the failure to repeal and replace. >> yes. and his -- i mean, his frustration with that is enormous, as we've seen in the aftermath of it. you know, he's had a variety of things to say about it. but most consistently recently, you know, trying to get congress to come back and do something about it. and we've seen in a remarkable way members of congress basically say to the white house we will do the business we want
to do. i mean, senator mcconnell has no desire to come back and deal with this issue at this point. you know, he tried and failed. he doesn't want to try and fail again. there's other important legislative business that will have to be done once they return from the recess. the debt ceiling being one, and getting a budget being another. those are two very significant things that have to be done. but the president eats away at this notion that congress should deal with healthcare. it's kind of -- you know, we use this word again, it's kind of remarkable the degree to which he has yet to understand or accept the ways of the legislative process and how a president can constructively affect that. and we have not been able so far to see him learn that lesson, and turn himself into a more constructive force, operating with members of his own party on the hill. and we're now seeing the reaction to that.
>> charlie: robert mueller, special counsel, according to the "wall street journal," has impaneled a grand jury in washington to investigate russia's interference in the 2016 elections. they say a sign that the inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase. >> well, obviously it's a significant development. perhaps in some ways not that surprising given the seriousness that we believe that mr. mueller was bringing to this task. but nonetheless, i think smart lawyers would recognize that this means there is a broad investigation underway, that this is an investigation that will require subpoenas and depositions from who knows how many people associated with the president, or beyond. and that this is not going to be something that is going to be wrapped up by the -- by thanksgiving. you know, the impanelment of a grand jury suggests that this will be a long process. now we all assumed that this would be a fairly lengthy
process. we also assumed that bob mueller wants to move it as expeditiously as possible for -- you know, for the good of the president and the good of the country to try to get this resolved as quickly as possible. but that's not necessarily possible given the various threads that he seems to be looking at. again, we don't know everything he's looking at. but there have been enough hints in some of the information that has come out, and in some of the people that he's hired, that this -- you know, that he's looking at the russian hacking, that he's looking at possible collusion or cooperation or knowledge of what the russians were doing by members of the trump campaign, or trump associates, that he perhaps is looking at the financial dealings of people around trump. we know he's been investigating general flynn. so there are any number of things that will fall under the -- you know, the rube rick
of this grand jury. if you're the president of the united states who sees it as a witch-hunt, this has to be a concerning development. >> charlie: i think john kelly said the president would not fire jeff sessions, after the president heard from republicans in congress, saying you better not do that, or there will be hell to bear. secondly, republicans said if you tried to fire him, appoint a new attorney general, that's a tough road to go. >> he's clearly put on notice that either of those steps would bring him nothing but grief from capitol hill, first from jeff sessions, who has a lot of friends on capitol hill, and who rose to his defense when the president began to attack him in tweets and in statements. the reaction was swift and very clear to the president, a clear warning, do not take that step. similarly with aniest to try to
scuttle the investigation into a bob mueller, he's hearing from people that that would be a very dangerous step for him. there's some legislation brewing on the hill that would -- that would, in essence, tie his hands if he tried to do that. >> charlie: right, right. >> i think it is a signal to him that he has to let this investigation run its course, and accept the consequences. now, it may be that -- that the final conclusions do not particularly do him any damage. we have to leave open that possibility. but every time he steps into something, it creates more questions about what is he worried about? >> charlie: dan balz, thank you so much. >> charlie, thank you. harlie: dan balz from "the washington post," the chief correspondent there. we'll be right back. stay with us. as dan balz the chief correspondent for "the washington post" mentioned in my conversation with him, this is
an extraordinary story of access to conversations with the president of the united states and the prime minister of australia and also the president of mexico. greg miller, "the washington post" reporter, who broke the story, joins me from washington. here at the disable, is a former advisor to mitt romney and paul ryan, also an official in george w. bush's administration. i'm pleased to have both on the program. greg, first of all, what was the first reaction you had when you discovered these transcripts, when you realized you had access to them, what they said? >> so, you know, we'd written stories earlier in the year, about this sort of readouts from the calls. we'd gotten word that they were chaotic and tense and heated. we sort of knew that going in. to me the thing that jumped out right away was reading through the mexico call, and what a sort of distance there was between what trump has said publicly about mexico, i'm going to build
a wall and mexico's going to pay for it, and what he was telling the mexico president in his very first call as president that went completely in the opposite direction. >> charlie: basically what did he say in the call to the president of mexico? >> i mean, the call amounts to an attempt to enlist the mexican president in a bit of a political chair raid. look, the money has to come from other places. i realize that. at one point he says the money will come out of the wash, we'll work out in the formula somehow, but youeed to stop saying you're not going to build for the wall. i can't live with that. at one point in the call says this is the least important thing we're talking about, but the most important thing politically. >> charlie: where did the transcripts of these calls come from, how are they edited and prepared, and who has access to them? >> so when a president has a conversation with a foreign leader, he has staff people, his own white house staff, is listening, and there are note-takers. they are scribbling notes throughout the conversation, and
afterward they produce a transcript of sorts. it's not a var verbatim the waya court reporter might put one together, drawing from a recording, but it's an accurate reflection of the blow-by-blow or play-by-play of that call, and those become memos circulated to policy people throughout the white house. >> charlie: the white house has in fact said the president is a tough negotiator, always looking to make the best possible deals for the american people, in every conversation the president has with leaders he's forceful in his determination to put america and americans first. is this likely to lead to a different impression of president trump than most americans already had? >> well, i think it reinforces some of our impressions about that. you just read through some of that language that we used from an official familiar with the calls, where they're saying he's always putting america first, but i think that you also read these transcripts of these
conversations, and he's always putting trump first. he's referring to him repeatedly throughout these calls. you know, everything is viewed through the prism of are you making me look good or are you making me look bad? if it's the latter, then i'm angry about it. >> charlie: dan, you've been around politics for a while. what was your impression? >> look, this isn't the first time that a president has spoken candidly with a foreign leader and spoken in terms about policies that are different from the president says in publicly. that's not different. the crassness and starkness is probably unnerving, but it's not shocking. what is worrisome to me, in addition to what it reveals about president trump, and how committed he is to these policies, you know, some of the things that greg says, in terms the lens through which he talks about these issues, this is
unprecedented in terms of the leak. the idea that foreign leaders around the world now know that when they're having a candid conversation with the president, they could be reading, not only on the front pages of the "washington post," but on the front pages of their newspapers in their own countries, about those conversations. i mean, these conversations in some respects reflect not well on the leaders to whom trump was speaking to. >> charlie: these conversations, you believe not reflect well? >> yeah. it looks like he's trying to push them around. >> charlie: at the same time he's not. >> well, he's not successful. i'm just saying, if you are the press in mexico, or the press, you know, in any of these countries whose leaders the president is speaking to, you do not want these conversations in your press. and i think -- look, the u.s. president's relationship with these leaders is asymmetrical. what they say to our president
matters a lot less in our politics than what the u.s. president says about them or to them and their politics. i think having these conversations broadcast out like this will make these leaders around the world a lot more -- >> charlie: circumspect? >> yeah. that's a huge problem. >> this white house obviously does have a problem with leaks, with discipline generally. you know, the attorney general is scheduled to tomorrow to have some sort of press conference or event in which he addresses the subject, talks about a crackdown, but at the same time, you know, there are -- this is also an administration and a president who lashes out in all directions all the time. against his own subordinates. he bad-mouths his own attorney general on twitter. he accused congress on twitter just today of being responsible for the damaged u.s. relationship with moscow. >> he attacks the intelligence community. >> right, he attacks the intelligence community. how does an executive like that expect to engender any loyalty across the administration when
he's constantly pointing fingers of blame, accusations, criticism in all directions. >> i agree as a practical meter that, sort of the inevitability of these constant attacks, including on the intelligence community, which is really damaging. as a practical matter, one could argue, it's inevitable, that this happens, but it doesn't make it right, though. it doesn't make it right that a public servant within intelligence community, or anywhere else, takes this kind of action in response -- the president is allowed to criticize whoever he wants to criticize, including his own government. it doesn't make it okay for officials within u.s. government to release it. again, i think the long-term implications are extremely damaging. >> there's additional value for us here at "the washington post." when we published our story earlier this year, characterizing this conversation with turnbull as acrimonious, talking about some of the things that trump said, trump the next day denounced the story as fake news, that it was a lie by the fake news media, and the
transcript proves he was not being truthful. >> charlie: and trump told reporters that mexico's leader had called him to praise john kelly's work as head of homeland security, the president of mexico said i never made that call. >> yes. this is sort of a pattern, right? this also surfaced in his claim about the boy scout leadership contacting him to credit him for the speech that he gave. >> charlie: same thing. >> i mean, there's a credibility issue here. >> well, i mean, what's striking is, i think all politicians bend, many of them bend facts slightly. the speed and frequency with which this president lies, as greg is articulating, on not necessarily big things, but small things, the cumulative effect of that is also extremely credibility damaging. >> charlie: how did the conversation with turnbull end, greg? >> not well. so, you know, turnbull, in the end is trying to turn the
subject into a more productive direction. clearly trump is upset about the refugee deal they've been discussing. turnbull tried to say, let's talk about syria, something else. trump wants no part of it. he just wants to get off the phone. he lashes out at the end. "well, thanks a lot. i'm getting you off the hook, but you're putting me on the hook." turnbull is basically saying "i'll be there for you, you can count me o on me, again and and, australia is your friend," and trump says "yeah, good-bye." >> charlie: is the tone leading to more and more people wanting to tell their side of the story, wanting to make some point because they don't believe what is the general line of conversations coming out of the white house? >> yeah, i think i'd be lying if i said otherwise. i think that -- right, as i was alluding to a little while ago, there are people who care deeply about the institutions of the
intelligence agencies, or of congress, or other parts of the executive branch, who believe in fundamental principles of democracy, what the united states stand for, who feel trampled often. you know, how they -- how they express that, right, you'll have great disagreement about, whether what they do is appropriate, but it real. you can't discount the fact that that's real. >> yeah. i would add to that that since trump came into power, came into office, there was a sense that he could steamroll an agenda through. what he completely underestimated, including his team, because they didn't have much experience with this, is the power in washington of the permanent bureaucracy, of congress, of the press, and of interest groups, public special interest groups, how they work with one another. in greg's case, someone within the government to get this story out. all four of those institutions are in overdrive right now, including the republicans in
congress, by the way. i mean, they're more restrained in how they articulate it, but all four of those nstitutions now are working harder, and more energetickically to be a real check on in president for the exact reason you stated. as greg said, they feel trampled upon. as you said, they feel their story is not getting out. >> charlie: greg, thank you very much. >> thank you. charlie: thank you, dan. good to have you. we'll be right back. stay with us. >> charlie: for the first time scientists have successfully edited genes in human embryos to repair a mutation that causes a dangerous heart condition, and would prevent the mutation from being passed down to future generations. the mutation could potentially applied to more than 10,000 conditions caused by specific inherited mutations. the study was a collaboration between the salk institute, the
oregon health and sciences university in portland, and career institute for basic science, and raises ethical concerns regarding its potential to be exploited for nontherapeutic purposes. joining me from portland, oregon, is dr. shoukhrat mitalipov of oregon health sciences university. from cambridge, massachusetts, richard hynes, a cancer researcher at mit. from palo alto, hank greely, director center for the law and biosciences in stanford. here in new york, pam belluck, who wrote the story for the "new york times." this is a remarkable story, a remarkable advance. we want to fully understand the potential and some of the caution being raised. i begin with pam belluck here. tell me the significance of this. >> so this is really a big deal. this is the closest that we have come to being able to genetically modify a human embryo. it was quite a successful experiment, or series of experiments, that the team did.
that tells you that the ability to do that safely and to do that successfully is probably not all that far off. a number of years for sure, maybe a decade, but it's not all that far off. >> charlie: people with diseases that could be inherited, that issue can be eliminated? >> right. i mean, the goal is to be able to -- for couples who have mutations that they would pass on to their children, that would be a specific cause of a disease, the idea is that you would be able to correct this, to repair the mutation, to basically get rid of it. and so the disease would not only not be transferred to the child, but also be eliminated from the family's line for future generations. >> charlie: so the question is,
dr. mitalipov, how did you do it? how long have you been working on it? give me a sense of your journey. >> we've been monitoring how this new gene editing technology is developed. there's been several tools developed that enable you to cut dna at specific spots. so the latest of these technologies is called crispr, which allows you to director the scissors to a certain gene that you tell it to cut. so this was pretty efficient way of basically mutating genes, but of course for humans would look wining to turn mutated genes back into normal, and that's how we combined actually the gene cutting tool, basically cut and uses the self-repair in embryo.
so the cut, next to mutant place, and when embryo repairs it has some kind of request to read from a template, that we call it, in this case was another gene that comes from another parent. and so this was the main finding, that if you just tell the embryos where the problem is, they can very efficiently self-repair this mutation. >> charlie: the self-repair seems amazing to me, that a gene can do that. how is it able to do that? >> so every cell in our body has this self-dna repair system. the dna breaks very often, and cells to repair it very efficiently. but most cells of the body usually repair it by making more error. so there could be some pieces of dna missing. the embryos have a different system. so they have probably some kind of proofreading activity that
will always try to see some kind of blueprint that would require to rebuild. in this case the blueprint is usually the second gene, in our study, the second gene was normal for human. >> charlie: hank greely, what would you add to this, in terms of the significance and excitement in the medical community? >> well, i think it's right. i think one of the remarkable things about this study is they discovered something surprising. it didn't actually work quite the way everybody expected. when the story first broke last week early, none of the early stories really talked about the most interesting scientific finding, which is had this self-repair mechanism in the embryo. i think this is a really fascinating advance that might bring embryo editing to the clinic a little bit earlier, but i think we're still at least a decade out. maybe now we're nine years and ten months out. >> charlie: people have been trying to do -- i know i mentioned in china and other
places, but this really was, pam, a breakthrough for this -- >> right. i mean, the thing that -- basically they accomplished three things, i think, three important things, that the previously published research -- there have been three previously published studies, all done by chinese researchers. the big advance that this team was able to do -- first of all, they were able to successfully get the change into a lot of embryos, dozens of embryos, not just a few. so that tells you, you know, their success rate was pretty good. it wasn't 100%. it was about 72%, but that's still -- that's pretty good. it tells you, you know, they're moving in the right direction. they did it with a relatively common gene mutation that causes a very serious disease. so they went for the kind of target that we would want this kind of technology to be used for. and maybe even most importantly,
they avoided two really big problems that had plagued the chinese efforts. they were able to get rid of a problem where the mutation would be copied in some cells of the embryo but not all the cells. so that creates, you know, kind of this patchwork of repaired cells and unrepaired cells. that's not safe in terms of producing an embryo. and also they appear to have done this without creating a bunch of unwanted mutations, and that had had happened in the previous effort. so we're talking about an effort that looks like they created apparently healthy embryos, and that means this could conceivably be safe to do. >> charlie: richard hynes, what do you see here as the opportunities and the risks? >> still risks that need to -- they point this out in the pape.
you need to be able to do it on other genes so it's widely applicable. seems no reason why that wouldn't be possible, but it needs to be shown. interesting to know whether you would edit mistakes in the female gene line. that seems likely. as others have said, this is several steps forward. but it's not there yet, because it has to be worked on further. there are lots of genes like this, where one bad copy can cause trouble, dominant disease genes. this opens the way to addressing them, which could be very useful once these technical hurdles are cleared, which will take a few years, i would guess. hard to put a number, but a few years before that will be technically feasible. and then you ask what will be the issues raised?
there are a series of ethical societal issues that will need to be addressed once it becomes techniquely possible, assuming it does. there are many values to correcting genes like this, and there are also risks and societal consequences having to do with things like equity, who's going to have access to this, it's going to be an expensive technology. that's not specific to genome editing. it's true of us in medical advances. it's a societal problem, but needs to be thought through. we now have this opportunity -- we, the community, have this community knowing this is likely coming to think that through, engage in a serious public discussion as to what things need to be fed into that decision. the committee of the academy said -- laid down a set of stringent guidelines that would have to be met before one could
move forward to clinical applications. they will have to be met, and maybe more will develop between now and this time. >> charlie: shoukhrat, what was the toughest thing to overcome? secondly, what's your second step? where does the research go? >> the first question, i guess, it was regulatory oversight. even though we have a guideline set that with can do, we do basic work, but still we needed to go through extensive review, prove on different levels, particularly in three different committees, about why we're doing it, how we're going to do it, and whether there's alternatives. this was probably most toughest and longest part of the project. regarding what to do next, i think we discussed there are so many other genes, and of course
this crispr technology has to be developed and optimized for each one of them. even the application, even if we develop crispr, we test it, still in each case, we would have to use the technology as part of diagnostics, b by byopsg cells. >> charlie: are we looking at a breakthrough moment in science and medicine that we will look back at this in a few years and say that was where we achieved the results that led to a remarkable future in the way we
deal with inherited disease? >> to me breakthrough is a little bit strong for this. i think it's great work and a wonderful paper. interestingly what exactly was done here could also be done through a process that shoukhrat already mentioned, preimplementation genetic diagnosis, where you select embryos, pick the embryos that don't have the bad copy of the gene. so the precise method here isn't that new. i do think, though, it's one more important step toward a future where we could do this, and then as richard pointed out, the big question will be should we, and if so under what circumstances, how will we deliver it, make it just and fair. >> charlie: pam, is it safe? is safety a factor here? >> oh, safety is going to be the main factor. >> charlie: with what kind of consequences?
>> well, for example, you know, as dr. mitalipov mentioned, the next kind of step, they'll have to repeat this with this mutation and with many others, and they're basically going to have to figure out a way to get it more and more successful. .to have 90%, 95% of the time, you want this to be successful. maybe 100% of the time if you can, right? obviously. and what you want to avoid is creating other problems in the embryo. so you don't want to create other mutations. you don't want to have a patchwork of cells. you want to be able to have a healthy embryo so that the child can be healthy. once they get the technology to the point where they have a very good success rate in the lab, in the dish, right, with the
embryos then u.s. law, or some other country's law, will have to change enough to allow there to be clinical trials where this can be tried in actual pregnancies. >> charlie: four or five years away, or -- >> i think as the experts here have been saying, a decade sounds about right. but with science obviously it's always very hard to predict. and these developments are happening very quickly. there are other teams working on this kind of thing. and then those clinical trials are going to -- you know, the children who are born need to be followed to make sure that they're healthy, that there aren't unintended consequences. it's a ways out, but moving pretty quickly. >> charlie: how significant -- this is for anyone. how significant is it that the idea of eliminating the mutation, the self-correcting, was able to be passed on from
generation to generation? that factor. was that to be expected or was that a breakthrough as well? >> no. that was to be expected, that if you correct something in the embryo it's going to be inherited in many cases. so that would be expected. i would like to add something else, though, that i think sometimes gets lost in this discussion. these were in vitro experiments to work out the technology of how to make edits in an embryo. >> charlie: right. >> those have implications for not only what we've been talking about, correcting mutations in unborn children, but it's important to study these embryos in vitro to learn about why things go wrong with ivf, fertility, implantation.
those things can be learned while curing children this disease. there's a lot of good medical benefits that will come from the basic science of which this is a good example. >> charlie: go ahead, somebody. >> the issue you raised is an important one. people are already in different camps about that. some thing that changing the germ line going forward is an awful thing, presumptive, we shouldn't try it. others think it's a great boon to health. one argument is whether it should be only used for medical purposes to prevent disease or used for enhancement purposes. that i predict is the big division in 10, 15 years, whenever it gets to the point where this is safe enough to
consider. >> charlie: what division? >> whether it should be used for treating or preventing disease, or used to make modifications to people. one aspect of this paper is that it uses the y type gene from the chromosome to correct the mutation, so that intrinsically doesn't enhance your ability to make new things. it does what you'd most want to do, for the disease, convert the mutated gene back to a gene you know is not harmful. >> charlie: shoukhrat, what uses might be applicable? >> so far diseases that are caused by single gene mutation. of course to self-correct, we always need one copy from one parent to be normal. we hope that mutations can be corrected. so that includes, for example, some cancer genes, like in brca
for breast cancer. there's some questions raised about how you would go around, if you have both that are mutant, how you correct that. the answer is we don't know yet. in other studies actually, scientists use so-called synthetic dna they provide to the cells when they do self-repair so they could take it as a guide. what we found with human embryos, they rejected the external dna, always will for their own -- always looking for their own. that's seems to be a problem. we have to resolve how to make embryos to take this normal copy we've provided, synthetics. >> charlie: the nih is prohibited from funding genetic research. >> that's right.
charlie: what might change that? >> also more importantly for this application, the fda is prohibited from even considering any kind of application for a clinical trial. >> charlie: is it a political carting or a medical argument? >> well, i think like a lot of things it's both. >> charlie: both. >> i mean, i think there are -- there are certainly, you know, people on different sides politically here, and they probably fall along the same lines as many of these kinds of arguments and issues do. but there are medical questions, including, you know, not only just how well this could work, but what circumstances are really appropriate for -- for this to be used. you know, ideally -- >> charlie: like playing god, is
a phrase some people use sometimes. >> some people see it that way. the easiest goal for people to accept -- and in fact, one could argue an almost ethical responsibility in a way -- is if we have the ability to safely help people have healthy children when they would have no other option, then some people would say there's an ethical argument for doing that, right? but the ethical concern is are we doing this when -- when it's not necessary, and are we -- would we be making sort of preferentially available for people who can pay for the? >> charlie: are there other ways to achieve the result achieved by this gene editing, or is this it if you want to make sure that you can attack these kinds of inherited single gene diseases? >> it's already been mentioned,
that you can use pge in some cases to select the embryos that don't carry the mutation. that's a possibility. there's a possibility for everything, for every sort of mutation that one could think about changing. it's possible for many of them. >> the advantage of this technology is that it could work alongside preimplementation genetic diagnosis, right? if you have a couple with fertility issues, currently they're able to genetically test their embryos, pick the healthy ones and implant those, but some of them -- >> charlie: that happens today? >> that happens today, but not every embryo is going to be healthy. so one of the sort of clearest arguments for using this gene editing technique is that you could repair the unhealthy
embryos and the couple would then have more healthy embryos to choose from, or to -- you know, to use in trying to conceive. that could not only give them a better chance, but it would save women from going through multiple arduous cycles of ivf. so there are some arguments for that. >> charlie: shoukhrat, what's the most important thing you learned in this successful experiment? >> so the most important thing is probably the ability of the embryos, germ line, to do self-repair, because we -- we actually tested this self-repair in patients' own skin cells. we tested extensively. we chose very best crispr construct, and then monitored how cells would repair. we actually never seen this kind
of self-repair. the first experiment in embryos, it was completely opposite. it was very surprising. and that's how the whole study started, you know, basically. we needed to prove if this was just a one -- one experiment, so we had to repeat it with multiple different eggs, make sure. >> charlie: hank greely, this was on the front page of all the newspapers i read this morning, and got a lot of attention in the television world as well. is this the kind of event, the kind of success, that will promote the kind of necessary study that we need to deal with what is a step forward in medical science? >> i hope so, but it might not. what we need is a long social discussion, both with ethicists, scientists, religious figures, but also with ordinary people, with the regular citizens, with what we would want to do with
this, what we wouldn't want to do with it. what worries me a little bit about the attention this has gotten, it can lead to a panic. after dolly the sheep's birth was announced, suddenly even was worried about cloned armies of slaves. there was laws passed because people got caught up in a panic. panicked legislation is almost always bad legislation. the report that richard cochaired was a great start, but we need to carry on and continue to think hard about what this would mean for our families, for societies. >> charlie: this is something that will get a lot of attention obviously because of the ramifications that we have said today. we hope to revisit this. i thank you for being patient as we mounted this broadcast.
we'll be coming back to talk to you more. so thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you for opportunity. >> thank you. charlie: thank you, pam. >> oh, thank you. my pleasure. >> charlie: thank you for joining us. see you next time. too more information, visit us on online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org