Tag: enhancement

Blog Posts (72)

April 29, 2016

A Bit More about the Minimal Genome

Earlier this week, Mark McQuain posted a nice summary of the recently-published work by J. Craig Venter’s group to identify a “minimal genome” for a type of bacterium, the mycoplasmas, which are, as the group points out, “the simplest cells capable of autonomous growth.”  Mark wondered aloud what the implications would be for our understanding of what it is to be human—how many genes do... // Read More »
April 26, 2016

Genetic Prime Patterns

Last month, Science published the results of an ongoing experiment conceived to determine, among other things, the minimum number of genes necessary for viability in a mycoplasma bacterium. Calling their engineered result Syn 3.0, scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) rearranged and reduced the number of genes on the single chromosome of a M. mycoides bacterium and inserted it into a different mycoplasma... // Read More »
April 21, 2016

Public Attitudes about Gene Editing

A recent Perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine summarizes the results of several public surveys about the acceptability of gene editing.  This summary, which is freely available to the general public online without a subscription, is worth a read.  I think it’s limited by the fact that most of the surveys listed are old.  Only two were done since 2014, and the... // Read More »
March 22, 2016

Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques – is this Human Enhancement?

Ever since I read John Holmlund’s blog entry (HERE) on mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT) for inherited mitochondrial diseases, I have been thinking a lot about the issue of enhancement. Almost in passing, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) stipulated that MRT would not be a meaningful example of human enhancement because of the relatively limited genetic information in mitochondria. Recall that mitochondria are the energy power... // Read More »
March 3, 2016

Upcoming Public Meeting and Webcast about Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques

Last week, I wrote about the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recent report “Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Ethical, Social, and Policy Considerations.”  A public discussion of this report, with an accompanying webcast, has been scheduled for March 21, 2016, beginning at 1:30 pm Eastern time, in Washington, D.C. Here is a link to the webpage for the meeting.  That page includes a separate link to register to... // Read More »
March 1, 2016

I am – is it?

This past summer, researchers at RPI’s Cognitive Science Department programmed three Nao robots to see if they could pass a test of self-awareness. Modeled after the classic “Wisemen Puzzle”, the robots were asked whether or not they had been given a “dumbing pill” (in this case, a tap on their head, which muted their verbal output) or a placebo. The test not only required the... // Read More »
February 25, 2016

“3-Parent Babies”—Half-Speed Ahead?

Three weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released its FDA-requested report “Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Ethical, Social, and Policy Considerations.”  The report may be read online, or a prepublication pdf copy may be downloaded for free, at this link. In view is the so-called “3-parent babies” technology, intended to treat inherited diseases of the mitochondria, components (called “organelles”) of a cell that are responsible for producing... // Read More »
February 4, 2016

The next round of conversations about gene editing

This blog has carried several posts about the ethical issues surrounding gene editing in humans.  The next round of public discussions is scheduled for next week, Feb. 11-12. The National Academies of Science and Medicine have been holding meetings to address the state of the science and the attendant ethical issues.  In December, a first meeting was held in Washington, DC.  That meeting produced a... // Read More »
January 7, 2016

A Book for Anyone Interested in Bioethics

Being Human: Core Readings in the Humanities, edited by Leon Kass, is one book worth a spot on the shelf of anyone interested in bioethics or concerns about human dignity.  A series of excerpts from things that we read—or should have read—in high school or college, it was selected by the members of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics in 2003.  The readings... // Read More »
December 31, 2015

“Shrinking” IRBs and Cutting-Edge Bioethics

A recent conversation from my IRB work—for several reasons, I must limit the details of the case: An IRB had received, for review and approval, a research protocol for gene editing of human embryos obtained from an IVF clinic.  The embryos would be at about the 150-cell stage—an early stage at which some (incorrectly, as I understand the science) believe a fertilized, dividing-and-differentiating zygote has... // Read More »