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Two of the week’s news items

1)      In this week when Hillary Clinton has declared the Hyde Amendment in her gun-sight, and said that “religious objections to abortion must change,” while her party literally shouts the confident claim that abortion is an affirmative public good and a fundamental human right, a commentator flagged the Washington Post’s awarding, last October, of 3 “Pinnochios” to the claim that Planned Parenthood ‘provides’ mammograms—a canard that should be buried in a deep hole.  The full argument can be read here.   

2)      The first “human gene editing trial” using the CRISPr-Cas9 approach is about to proceed in China.  This one does not appear to pose special ethical issues.  In it, patients with cancer will have some of their immune cells removed and edited to make them more active against the tumor by eliminating a gene (and the associated protein) that “applies the brake” to immune reactivity.  It could be a spicy meatball; there’s a risk that the cells will react more generally against the patient’s normal tissue, too, causing toxicity, but that goes with the territory for current cutting-edge cancer immunotherapy.  The serious ethical issues with gene editing arise with attempts to alter embryos, entire individuals, or germ cells to introduce heritable changes.  And, while the FDA is looking at a similar proposal for a trial in the U.S., this week’s news may be an indication that first steps toward the brave new world could come out of Asia—specifically, China and South Korea. But that is conjecture.

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