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Link to TED Talk by Geneticist Dr. Jennifer Doudna who co-invented a groundbreaking new technology for editing genes, called CRISPR-Cas9. The tool allows scientists to make precise edits to DNA strands, which could lead to treatments for genetic diseases ... but could also be used to create so-called "designer babies." Doudna reviews how CRISPR-Cas9 works — and asks the scientific community to pause and discuss the ethics of this new tool.
NPR Fresh Air 1-12-17
New Gene-Editing Techniques Hold the Promise of Altering the Fundamentals of Life
by Dana Carroll and R. Alta Charo, published by Genome Biology (2015)
Link to Podcast by Doug Fabrizio and Siddhartha Mukherjee. Friday, Nov 18, 2016, the writer and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee is our guest. He’s written a book that tells the epic tale of our quest to unravel the human genome. It’s the story of a long lineage of scientists—from Mendel, to Darwin, Watson, Crick, and countless others—and their efforts to understand the workings of the very threads of our existence. But how, Mukherjee wonders, can we best apply that knowledge? And what does it mean to be human when we can read and write our own genetic information? (Rebroadcast)
Report Backs Human Gene Editing To Address Disease-Causing Genes
The New York Times (2/14, Harmon, Subscription Publication) reports that an “influential science advisory group formed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine on Tuesday” gave support to a “once-unthinkable proposition: clinical efforts to engineer humans with inheritable genetic traits.” The group “endorsed the alteration of human eggs, sperm and embryos – but only to prevent babies from being born with genes known to cause serious diseases and disability, only when no ‘reasonable alternative’ exists, and only when a plan is in place to track the effects of the procedure through multiple generations.”
In “Science Now,” the Los Angeles Times (2/14, Healy) reports that “tinkering with...genes in order to enhance or alter traits such as strength, intelligence or beauty should remain off-limits, the report authors concluded.”
Bloomberg News (2/14, Chen) reports the US National Academy of Sciences “issued a 200-page-plus report Tuesday meant to serve as ethical guidelines for gene-editing technologies.” The committee of more than 20 scientists and ethicists “spent more than a year working on the recommendations.”
The AP (2/14, Neergaard) says the “long-awaited report” gives advice and “is considered a step toward creating international norms for responsible development of” gene-editing technologies.
published in the National Academies Press of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine
New biochemical tools have made it possible to change the DNA sequences of living organisms with unprecedented ease and precision. These new tools have generated great excitement in the scientific and medical communities because of their potential to advance biological understanding, alter the genomes of microbes, plants, and animals, and treat human diseases. They also have raised profound questions about how people may choose to alter not only their own DNA but the genomes of future generations.
To explore the many questions surrounding the use of gene editing tools in humans, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the Royal Society, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences hosted a three-day international summit on December 1-3, 2015, in Washington, DC. The summit brought together more than 500 people from around the world for three days of presentations and deliberations on the scientific, ethical, legal, social, and governance issues associated with human gene editing, while an additional 3,000 people watched the summit online.
“We could be on the cusp of a new era in human history,” said David Baltimore (California Institute of Technology), chair of the summit organizing committee, in his opening remarks. “Today, we sense that we are close to being able to alter human heredity. Now we must face the questions that arise. How, if at all, do we as a society want to use this capability? This is the question that has motivated this meeting.”
This brief summary should not be seen as representing the conclusions of the summit as a whole. Rather, it highlights some of the observations made during the event in order to provide background for the statement issued by the organizing committee in the summit’s final session. Read more