Are you morally ready to design a baby?

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tck62
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Are you morally ready to design a baby?

Post by tck62 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:53 pm

The emergence of CRISPR/Cas9 has the potential to wipe out some kinds of disease, but could impose momentous obligations on parents. The co-editor of a new book on the ethics of gene editing explains how scientific advances could affect the American family.

SALT LAKE CITY — What if you could protect your unborn child from disease? Or endow him with a full head of hair or stunning green eyes? What if you could, but you didn’t? Is the world ready for the moral responsibility of designing humans?

Ready or not, these are among the ethical conundrums presented by CRISPR-Cas9, a tool that has made gene editing fast and simple. And some parents have already faced the decision about disease; the first gene-edited babies are almost old enough to walk.

Last year, a Chinese scientist used the tool to tweak the genome of twin girls to make them immune to HIV, sidestepping scientific norms and moral considerations.

Blowback was immediate and overwhelming.

Even Jennifer Doudna, who co-invented CRISPR-Cas9 in 2012, denounced the work of He Jiankui as “reckless experimentation” and the “shocking misapplication” of a scientific advance that could give human beings the power to improve their own progeny.

The outrage of Doudna, and other scientists worldwide, stems, in part, from concerns about safety. The technology is still too new and dangerous to use in embryos, Doudna has said. And most scientists are united in the belief that the tool should only be used to treat or prevent disease. While some assisted-reproduction clinics already offer eye-color selection, it’s unclear if and when a child’s intelligence could be improved by gene editing, or if that use would ever be legal in this country.

The world also hasn’t had enough time to process the moral questions that gene editing raises, says the co-editor of “Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing,” a new book that encourages thoughtful consideration of unsettling issues that will confront both scientists and families as the technology matures.

“The first parents offered gene editing of their gametes, embryos, fetuses or children will be called on to make decisions that I did not have to make,” writes Josephine Johnston, director of research at The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, New York, that produced the book with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

Discovered by Doudna and French researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier, CRISPR-Cas 9 mimics a naturally occurring process by which bacteria destroy a virus. Scientists use a protein called Cas9 and a snippet of RNA to find, and then cut DNA, causing genes responsible for disease to be shut down or altered. Some scientists compare the process to the “find and replace” function on a computer document. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do it.

“The simplicity of the CRISPR-Cas9 system allows any researcher with knowledge of molecular biology to modify genomes, making feasible experiments that were previously difficult or impossible to conduct,” Doudna and other scientists wrote in a paper published in the journal Science in 2015.

The ease with which gene editing can be done portends a future in which parents could have unprecedented control over their descendants, raising not just ethical but theological questions. Through CRISPR-Cas9, does God invite us to participate in creation, or is gene editing another apple of Eden best left alone?

Johnston spoke with the Deseret News recently about some of these questions and what they will mean for the American family. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Deseret News: One of your contributors writes that CRISPR-Cas9 caught the world by surprise. Why is that?

Josephine Johnston: Gene transfer research had been going on throughout the 1990s. You might remember that Jesse Gelsinger died in a gene transfer study at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. He was a healthy young man who had a genetic condition, but it was managed and he was doing well, so it was quite a dramatic thing when he had a reaction and died.

There was a lot of consideration of what went wrong, including accusations that it was an avoidable death, and this was an event that slowed down the work. And suddenly, this new tool comes on the horizon that, seemingly at least, overcomes some of the previous problems.

DN: Your contributors raise challenging questions, one being the idea that some people consider aging a disease that can and should be cured, and also that in coming decades, parents could have not only the right, but the moral obligation, to edit their children’s genes. These questions are so thorny it’s hard to imagine that we will ever arrive at a consensus. Can we get there before gene editing in human beings begins in earnest?

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https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2019/10 ... onsibility



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GuideToACrazyWorld
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Re: Are you morally ready to design a baby?

Post by GuideToACrazyWorld » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:55 pm

There is no genome for the human spirit...


tck62
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Re: Are you morally ready to design a baby?

Post by tck62 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:56 pm

"While some assisted-reproduction clinics already offer eye-color selection, it’s unclear if and when a child’s intelligence could be improved by gene editing, or if that use would ever be legal in this country."

Imagine having a resentful child because you were uncomfortable with the gene editing technology and didn't alter his genes to be 6'1" tall and he resented being 5'10"?

The implications of this are really limitless. Will the wealthy eventual become a master race like Khan in the old Star Trek movies?

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Re: Are you morally ready to design a baby?

Post by Eryk » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:12 am

This will progress naturally no matter what. First it will start with diseases then when this is normalized they’ll continue with eye color which we may not even notice. Eventually they’ll slowly progress to height, strength, stamina, intelligence. Will genetically altered humans be allowed in the olympics??? Something we’ll need to think about in 50 years.

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