David Ewing Duncan
Originally published March 27, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
There are also the ethics of using a powerful new technology to muck around with life’s basic coding. Theoretically, scientists could one day manufacture genomes, human or otherwise, almost as easily as writing code on a computer, transforming digital DNA on someone’s laptop into living cells of, say, Homo sapiens. Mindful of the controversy, Church and his HGP-Write colleagues insist that minting people is not their goal, though the sheer audacity of making genome-scale changes to human DNA is enough to cause controversy. “People get upset if you put a gene from another species into something you eat,” says Stanford bioethicist and legal scholar Henry Greely. “Now we’re talking about a thorough rewriting of life? Hairs will stand on end. Hackles will be raised.”
Raised hackles or not, Church and his team are forging ahead. “We want to start with a human Y,” he says, referring to the male sex chromosome, which he explains has the fewest genes of a person’s 23 chromosomes and is thus easier to build. And he doesn’t want to synthesize just any Y chromosome. He and his team want to use the Y chromosome sequence from an actual person’s genome: mine.
“Can you do that?” I stammer.
“Of course we can—with your permission,” he says, reminding me that it would be easy to tap into my genome, since it was stored digitally in his lab’s computers as part of an effort he launched in 2005 called the Personal Genome Project.
The article is here.