New techniques that could make germline genetic engineering unprecedentedly easy are forcing policymakers to confront the ethical implications of moving forward
By Jonathan D. Moreno
November 30, 2015
The biologists have done it again. Not so long ago it was cloning and embryonic stem cells that challenged moral imagination. These days all eyes are on a powerful new technique for engineering or “editing” DNA. Relatively easy to learn and to use, CRISPR has forced scientists, ethicists and policymakers to reconsider one of the few seeming red lines in experimental biology: the difference between genetically modifying an individual’s somatic cells and engineering the germline that will be transmitted to future generations. Instead of genetic engineering for one person why not eliminate that disease trait from all of her or his descendants?
This week, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the U.K. Royal Society are trying to find ways to redraw that red line. And redraw it in a way that allows the technology to help and not to hurt humanity. Perhaps the hardest but most critical part of the ethical challenge: doing that in a way that doesn’t go down a dark path of “improvements” to the human race.
The article is here.