Lence Through Ethics Essay 2013

The enthusiasm of laboratory researchers seems to arise from the specificity, ease of use and speed of the CRISPR technology.Most spectacular seems to be the quantum change in the rate of new findings that CRISPR–Cas9 permits; experiments that would have taken a few years can now take weeks.

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Although gene editing is not new in this respect, CRISPR–Cas9 significantly reduces the time required to conduct experiments that have previously taken years.

The pace and scope of research, along with possible clinical applications, place it as a ‘disruptor’ technology.

The leap from gene editing in ‘somatic’ cells (e.g.

normal liver cells or pathogenic mutations in cancers) to performing it in ‘germ’ cells, may seem trivial, for the same laboratory procedures with CRISPR–Cas9 would be used.

The valid claim of genetic exceptionalism supports restraint on experimentation in human germ cells, given the trans-generational dangers and the knowledge gap in germ cell biology.

Standing for ‘Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeats’ in association with the Cas9 DNA-cutting enzyme, the system in nature provides bacteria with immunity from viruses and phages, and silences genes that make molecular surface markers.

With the speed of lightning (and the inevitable but delayed roll of thunder), the awareness and speculation about CRISPR–Cas9 have spread more rapidly and broadly than other recent advances, far beyond the involved molecular geneticists, to other biomedical scientists, clinicians and the public.

Perhaps not since the arrival of simple karyotyping has a technical advance been so rapidly and widely disseminated from a few research crannies to diverse laboratories worldwide, large and small.

Hence, we go further than the Summit to endorse a moratorium on experiments with CRISPR–Cas9 and related technologies aimed toward germ cell mutations.

Our ‘first’ controversy is that CRISPR–Cas9 requires a complex and nuanced debate of principles of clinical and research ethics beyond what the long established ones) , but which we use here to recognize the opportunities to share benefits as a public good; it helps conceptualize how disruptive technologies are also social phenomena that are subject to rapid and constant transformations.


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