Jump to content

CRISPR: Human Gene Editing

Ten oz

Recommended Posts

I recently watched a Netflix Documentary called Human Nature which discusses how CRISPR is being used and could be further used to edit human genes. I found many of the ethical questions raised difficult to parse. I also found the prospect of the human genome being possibly polluted with superficial edits made out of vanity, bias, or per ignorance terrifying.

I put this in speculation to open the discussion up to include peoples hopes, fears, ethical concerns,  etc are for human gene editing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So the good news for now is that it is still quite non-trivial and that it is still not quite as specific as folks would like. I.e. even under the best conditions it is likely to create unwanted mutations. As such, things are still difficult and unlikely to happen on a broad or superficial basis. Another thought is what level of editing we are talking about. Editing, certain cells and re-implanting them, would be something else compared to manipulations in embryos, for example.

And lastly, we are still limited in the understanding of our genome. With some exceptions, editing parts of our genome will have unintended consequences and as such I do not (yet) see it fundamentally different than playing around with mutagenic substances, which is also not generally allowed. 

That is not to say that these and other methods are not a bioethical issue, they clearly are. While we face technical limitations, they may be overcome at some point. And we will have to think more about how we view our genomes. That, is not quite as trivial, as obviously through life we do change it (mostly, but not exclusively in epigenetic ways), but in an untargeted way. If we had the means to control the outcome, in a perfect way, should we do it? 

The case is most obvious for fatal genetic diseases. But obviously there is a huge grey area. I doubt that we have a clear answer, considering that we often lack such in areas unrelated to genetics. Why should this case be different?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@CharonY It seems we have some of the same concerns. It isn't trivial but it is being attempted . We are in the early dawn. The reasons to encourage and push ever further ahead are powerful ones. What parent wouldn't want to ensure their child would be born without a life threatening genetic condition. I am not comfortable with it but ever I would be desperate for such assurance if it existed.

Problem of course is things never stay as intended and all value is relative. What starts as preventing babies from being born with cancer quickly becomes parents selecting the gender, hair color, etc of their children. certainly there would be far more paying customers for the superficial than the rare genetic disorder.

I have come to view it as unethical for people to make any permanent long term (greater than a lifetime) changes to the ecology. Whether its making land uninhabitable with radioactive waste or manipulating germline DNA I don't think humans are capable of making the needed calculations for the future that will exist far beyond our own.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

@MigL the proverbial genie being out of the bottle is a point often made when discussing how far new tech, processes, behaviors, or etc might go from a concerned point of view. While it may be true it lacks degree. Nuclear weapons were last (and only) used in 1945. Efforts to prevent proliferation have been more successful than most reasonable person would have guessed they could be when they began 70yrs ago. of course the cat is out the bag and more nations will obtain nuclear weapons and time Marches. That said future wars will most likely be cyber and the usefulness of Nuclear weapons is actually diminishing. Only time will tell but its possible we've already crested the peak concerning Nuclear weapons and are on the backside of the mountain. Militarily cyber provides more bang for the buck. In which case proliferation efforts kept keep nuclear weapons scarce enough (less nations with them) long enough.

Efforts regarding gene editing might be able to do the same. Prevent wide spread editing long enough that our understanding of the down stream consequences catch up.


*the morality of various discussion made in the name of preventing nuclear proliferation can be debated at length. Poor execution and bad faith behavior weasel there way into everything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.