Current events: CRISPR

Hey everyone,

For folks who have read my books, you’ll remember that the gene-editing technology called CRISPR is mentioned. I’ve heard CRISPR referred to in various settings a few times over the last couple of days, so I thought it was time to do a bit of reading and find out the latest news.

We know that gene-editing human embryos is a thing. In 2018, Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui used CRISPR technology to edit human embryos to make the resulting children resistant to HIV infection. He Jiankui and two of his colleagues were jailed for this research. In addition to the obvious, there’s also the problem of unintended consequences. It’s been shown that the twin girls carrying the edited genes face a higher risk of premature death.

Because of this research and outcome, an international commission from ten countries was convened by the US National Academy of Medicine, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the UK Royal Society to discuss human genome editing. The commission focused on the scientific and technical aspects of CRISPR, not on ethical considerations. Based solely on technology, the commission concluded that “…the technique is too risky to be used in embryos destined for implantation.” (1) Furthermore, the commission stressed that “…even when the technology is mature, its use should initially be permitted in only a narrow set of circumstances.” (1)

CRISPR has plenty of additional applications. I found a recent article calling CRISPR a runaway technology. Before the twin girls in China were born, “…one [US-based] biotech company used spurious public health claims to get CRISPR-modified foods onto people’s dinner plates.” (2) Googling “crispr and food” yielded a whole raft of articles on CRISPR created food in supermarkets. A Guardian article warned of what’s coming: hardier strawberries that can be picked by machine instead of by hand. Lettuce that can grow in drier climates. Wheat with less gluten. Another article calls CRISPR “The latest adventure in food enhancement…” (3), then goes on to discuss how to create a regulatory environment that supports CRISPR use in food technology.

Another group of scientists is investigating using CRISPR to eradicate pests, like mosquitoes or mice. An article a couple of years ago in Nature talks about using CRISPR to engineer “gene drives,” where a mutation spreads through a population faster than it would by natural selection. (4) The author, Megan Scudellari, talks about whether this would even work; how a trial could be set up (because once it’s released, there’s no going back); how could it be controlled; and ultimately, who gets to decide.

It’s a lot to think about.

That’s it for today. Until next time,


(1) “‘CRISPR babies’ are still too risky, says influential panel” by Heidi Leford, Nature, September 03, 2020 (

(2) “Runaway Biology: A Call for Conscientious Genome Editing with CRISPR” by Søren Hough, Science for the People, Volume 23, number 3, Bio-Politics, Winter 2020 (

(3) “CRISPR and Our Food Supply: What’s Next in Feeding the World?” by Scott Haskell, Michigan State University (

(4) “Self-destructing mosquitoes and sterilized rodents: the promise of gene drives” by Megan Scudellari, Nature, July 9, 2019 (

Current events: Surrogacy

Hey everyone,

When I first started writing Due Date, way back in the dark ages of 2006, I was intrigued by the complex relationship between a surrogate mom and the intended parents. I think it’s become even more complicated since then. For example, I had no idea about the business side of things. Apparently, now, surrogacy is a multibillion-dollar industry, with international surrogacy arrangements in India alone valued at up to $2 billion in 2016. Wow. The industry is complex, with technological, legal, and ethical factors to consider in every transaction.

Covid has impacted this industry in significant ways, by creating “…unnecessary risks and challenges for surrogates, egg providers, babies born, and intended parents.” (Source: “Business Not As Usual: Surrogacy in the Time of COVID and Beyond” by Emily Galpern) The author suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated the already existing inequality in the surrogacy industry, an inequality that is particularly apparent in international surrogacy arrangements.

There are now movements in the US and globally to legislate commercial surrogacy. In New York state, for example, the Child-Parent Surrogacy Act enacted in 2020, mitigates the traditional and powerful principle that the birth mother is the legal mother. In the UK and the Netherlands, government is laying the groundwork for a system of pre-authorization of surrogacy agreements, where the intended parents would be the legal parents from birth. In France, however, commercial surrogacy is illegal, leading to thorny question of whether a child born through a surrogacy arrangement can become a French citizen. (Source: “Surrogacy: New Challenges to Law and Ethics” by Donna Dickenson)

And recently, with the ability to create an embryo from a genetic technology called mitochondrial donation, an embryo can contain genetic material from three people: a mother and father, plus a mitochondrial donor. This procedure is sometimes called “three-parent IVF” because while the main DNA comes from the father and mother, mitochondria from the donor also carry tiny pieces of DNA. This means that the resulting embryo will have DNA from three people. The technology, used to prevent genetic illnesses, is banned in the US as it is viewed as germline editing. (Source: “Three-Parent IV Might Open the Door to Human Genome Editing” by Diana Bowman, Karinne Ludlow and Walter Johnson)

Before Due Date, I had written a book about an open adoption, with themes around inequality, ethics, and the concept of motherhood. I thought it would make great fiction. And it would, just not the way I had written it! I pivoted my idea to a book of suspense, using surrogacy as the launchpad. I stand by my instinct that this topic is perfect for fiction of any genre. There’s a recent novel called The Farm, by Joanne Ramos, that’s on my reading list. It was published in 2019 and raises the questions of inequality, commercialization, commodification, and legalization well enough that is has almost 1000 reviews on Amazon with a 4-star rating. Impressive! I know there are plenty other books as well.

Well that’s it for today. I do wonder where we will be in ten or twenty years. Will we have designer babies? A new species of humanity? Will genetic disorders be eradicated? Will surrogacy be outlawed or embraced? There are so many lenses through which to view this topic.

Anyway, cheers! I hope anyone reading this is staying safe, sane, and healthy.

Until next time,


Current events: A 27-year-old-baby?

Hey everyone,

I know, I know. That headline sounds like it could be from the tabloids, and in a way it is! A couple of weeks ago, news hit about the record-breaking 27-year-old-baby, just 2 years younger than her mom. “What?” you say. I did a double take as well.

It’s all about frozen eggs and IVF.

The baby, Molly Gibson, was born from an embryo frozen in 1992. Her mom, Tina Gibson, was just a two-year-old toddler when the embryo was put in the deep freeze. Crazy, right?

Turns out the egg was donated and frozen on October 14, 1992. In 2019, it was “unfrozen” and implanted into Molly’s mom, Tina. This beats the record for a live birth from a frozen embryo. And surprisingly, the previous record for a live birth from a frozen embryo belonged to Molly’s sister, Emma. That egg was donated by the same couple in 1992. Here’s a link to this amazing news story with a photo of adorable baby Molly.

A 27-year-old embryo. Of course, the technology for frozen eggs has changed over the years, but the end result is still the same. It’s exciting and promising, and makes you wonder if there’s any limit on how long an egg can be frozen. I can think of some great sci-fi plots already.

If you’ve read Due Date and/or The Stork, you know that one of the themes is fertility, IVF, and surrogacy. The topic of frozen eggs relates very tangentially to The Found Child. I find the topic of IVF and surrogacy so compelling, both in real life and in fiction. To me, it’s really a miracle that an almost 30-year-old egg can be, in a sense, re-animated, and produce a live human being. Wow.

Until next time,


Current events: The fire

Hey everyone,

When I decided I wanted to keep Shelby’s story current, as in set in September of 2020 current, little did I know I’d have a pandemic and a devastating fire thrown in to test my life skills and my writing.

As I’ve mentioned before, both of these current events took me by surprise. And both ended up in The Found Child.

I think about fictitious Shelby now, living in rural Bonny Doon, in the Santa Cruz Mountains and wonder what life would be like for her now. I do know plenty of folks who live in Bonny Doon and I know it’s not easy, with blackened trees, ash and soot that gets blown around in the breeze, and the very real fear of another devastating fire tearing through the forest. And my heart breaks for those who lost their homes.

The CZU Lightning Complex fire was contained after burning for 37 days. It was started by multiple lightning strikes created by a dry thunderstorm. It burned 86,509 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and destroyed 1,490 structures. Massive.

I’ve learned a lot of things over the last month. If your house was damaged or destroyed, you can’t clean up fire debris on your own. It’s toxic, so you need to hire a certified contractor and go through lots of paperwork. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover debris removal. You can sift through the ash to look for things, but you can’t move the ash or create a hazard for the debris removal folks.

I’ve read, as well as noticed as I go out and about, that our homeless population increased. There are encampments as you enter and leave Santa Cruz — tents at the intersection of Highways 1 and 9, and RVs heading north on Highway 1 at the city limits. These encampments are controversial, with lots of conversations on NextDoor. Here are some article links that are fairly current:

My husband and I took a small tour of an area where the fire ripped through. One pass was enough for me, with once-beautiful homes now just black and flattened on the ground, with maybe a chimney left standing, massive redwoods now torched and blackened; hillsides devoid of vegetation, now ready to slide in the first rainstorm. Tragic and knee-buckling and something that will stick with me for a long time.

Well, that’s it for today! Stay safe everyone, in fires and covid-wise!

Until next time,