Hot Topics: Genetics

Blog Posts (26)

September 11, 2014

Who’s Afraid of GMO?

<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">The answer, it seems, is quite a number of people. The question that we really need to address is why. Are these concerns rational, are they science based, should they provide the basis for public policy? People have been using selective breeding and hybridization techniques for thousands of years to alter the genetic makeup of both plant and animal agricultural products. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ecT2CaL7NA">Neil Tyson Degrasse</a> </span><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">made the point very clearly and effectively that almost nothing we grow agriculturally has been unchanged from the plants and animals living naturally. They have all been altered by the intentional action of human beings. Selective breeding, of course, has significant differences from what is currently characterized by the term genetic modification which is done using the techniques of molecular biology to insert genetic material. But they do establish the principle that most people are happy to eat food products which have been genetically altered by people. That sweet red apple you had for lunch or the fattened cattle which produced your juicy hamburger do not exist in nature.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">The techniques of genetic engineering which can be used to insert genetic material into the genome of a cell permitted the alteration of crops that resist pests requiring less use of pesticides. They allow selective herbicide resistance allowing the use of minimally toxic or nontoxic  herbicides as well as no till farming which diminishes erosion and reduces use of fossil fuels. They have also been able to use these techniques to add essential nutrients to address widespread dietary deficiencies. An example of this is the development of golden rice, the </span><a style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_rice">genetic modification of rice</a><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"> to produce vitamin A. These are good things.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"> </span></p>
August 27, 2014

Update: How Ebola Kills

<p>Eman’s emails arrive hours ahead of the news here. He wrote on Sunday, August 17:</p> <p><em>“An Ebola quarantine site was attacked and looted. News is that most of the patients have escaped. This is going to put more fear into the population. All this because people are denying the virus.  More people might get exposed.  I’m so weak I can’t wake up this morning. Its 6:00 pm and I am still in bed listening to the news.  All this happened in a very populated area called West Point. Got pain all over my body. Keep me in your meditations.”</em></p> <p>Emmanuel is a medical student in <a href="http://blogs.plos.org/dnascience/2013/04/25/dna-day-and-world-malaria-day-the-sickle-cellmalaria-link-revisited/">Liberia</a> whom my husband and I have been supporting since he contacted me after reading my human genetics textbook in 2007. Until the fever hit him last weekend, he dedicated himself to “sensitization,” educating the public about how to stay safe. But now he’s too sick and weak to venture out.</p> <p>His email from Monday, August 18, said only <em>“Need help!”</em></p> <p style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">Ricki Lewis is the author of "<a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Forever-Fix-Therapy-Saved/dp/0312681909">The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It</a>," St. Martin's Press, March 2012.  To read more blogs from the author, please visit her site at <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.rickilewis.com/">http://www.rickilewis.com</a>.</p> <p style="border: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 10px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #333333; font-family: Georgia, 'Bitstream Charter', serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20.296875px;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
June 14, 2014

Making Babies; the New “Normal”

Once upon a time in a fairy tale land that now seems far, far away, young people fell in love, got married, and started a family. But the idea of “starting a family” has taken on new meaning as pregnancy has come under the rubric of technological control. Increasingly, it is not about having children but about “making babies.” With the advent of technology and... // Read More »
June 12, 2014

Germline Alteration and Defining “Just Research”

Yesterday’s post by Steve Phillips raises a central question for us in the “biotech century”:  are there some sorts of experiments that fundamentally ought not be done because of the potential they will be grossly misapplied by bad actors?  Steve cited research by Lord Robert Winston seeking to create genetically altered pigs—that seem, from the description in the press, to be what scientists call “transgenic”... // Read More »
June 11, 2014

New method for genetic modification – genetic alteration of sperm

Germline genetic modification is a technique that some find intriguing and many find very concerning when its use is considered in humans. However there are uses of germline genetic modifications in animals that may impact humans in multiple ways. In an article in The Telegraph, British researcher Robert Winston talks about current research to develop animal organs (usually from pigs) that could be genetically modified... // Read More »
May 8, 2014

“Faking” Life?

Synthetic biology—loosely defined as the intersection of engineering and biology—is a burgeoning field with the potential to create or alter “non-naturally” occurring organisms using basic biomolecules, or similar molecules not found in living things as we encounter them.  A few years ago, Dr. Craig Venter’s group in San Diego synthesized the entire DNA of one species of mycobacterium on a lab bench, added some identifier... // Read More »
April 24, 2014

Last Week’s Stem Cell Cloning News

Readers of this blog probably saw last week’s report, as the NPR headline put it, that “First Embryonic Stem Cells Cloned from a Man’s Skin.”  I was able to read the full text of the online publication, by Cell Stem Cell, here. The stated goal of the work is to use somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to clone an embryo that can then be used... // Read More »
April 19, 2014

Reflections on the Metaphors We Live–and Die–By

Images powerfully impact how we think and how we live. Metaphors, those images we use to describe the indescribable, to portray the unfamiliar and mysterious, are particularly so because of the identity relationships they create. In my last post, I commented on an article in the NYT entitled, “A Tumor: the Embryo’s Evil Twin,” which described the similarities between embryogenesis and the cellular behavior of... // Read More »
March 11, 2014

Choosing Wisely: Promising New Tests to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

According to an article in Nature Medicine, a new blood test appears to be accurate for diagnosing whether an individual is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.…

March 4, 2014

Tampering With Evolution? "Three Parent Embryos"

by Maurice Bernstein, MD

Babies are born with  a progressive neurometabolic disorder with a general onset in infancy or childhood, often after a viral infection, but can also occur in teens and adults. …

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Published Articles (39)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 14 Issue 3 - Mar 2014

Addressing the Ethical Challenges in Genetic Testing and Sequencing of Children Ellen Wright Clayton, Laurence B. McCullough, Leslie G. Biesecker, Steven Joffe, Lainie Friedman Ross, Susan M. Wolf & For the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research (CSER) Consortium Pediatrics Working Group

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 14 Issue 3 - Mar 2014

Ethics and Empiricism in the Formation of Professional Guidelines Mildred K. Cho

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 10 - Oct 2013

Gender Eugenics? The Ethics of PGD for Intersex Conditions Robert Sparrow

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 10 - Oct 2013

Critically Appraising Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis to Prevent Disorders of Sexual Development: An Opportunity Missed Laurence B. McCullough

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 5 - May 2013

The Right to Know Your Genetic Parents: From Open-Identity Gamete Donation to Routine Paternity Testing An Ravelingien & Guido Pennings

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 2 - Feb 2013

Do Researchers Have an Obligation to Actively Look for Genetic Incidental Findings? Catherine Gliwa & Benjamin E. Berkman

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 2 - Feb 2013

What To Do With the Could-Be-Knowns of Genomic Medicine Richard R. Sharp

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 12 Issue 10 - Oct 2012

Review of Marion Danis, Emily Largent, David Wendler, Sara Chandros Hull, Seema Shah, Joseph Millum, Benjamin Berkman, and Christine Grady, Research Ethics Consultation: A Casebook Emily E. Anderson

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 12 Issue 4 - Apr 2012

Swabbing Students: Should Universities Be Allowed to Facilitate Educational DNA Testing? Shawneequa L. Callier

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 12 Issue 4 - Apr 2012

The Case for a Parental Duty to Use Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis for Medical Benefit Janet Malek & Judith Daar

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News (777)

September 10, 2014 4:37 pm

Planet of the apes: Gibbons are last ape to have genome revealed

Gibbons – the small, long-armed tree swingers that inhabit the dense tropical forests of Southeast Asia – have become the last of the planet’s apes to have their genetic secrets revealed.

September 10, 2014 2:49 pm

NIH issues finalized policy on genomic data sharing

The National Institutes of Health has issued a final NIH Genomic Data Sharing (GDS) policy to promote data sharing as a way to speed the translation of data into knowledge, products and procedures that improve health while protecting the privacy of research participants.

September 8, 2014 2:50 pm

Multitasking Gene May Help Drone Operators Control Robotic Swarms

A genetic variant that keeps dopamine levels high could lead to personalized training and also benefit personnel in ERs and air traffic control towers.

August 26, 2014 1:19 pm

Happiness study draws frowns from critics

A high-profile 2013 study that concluded that different kinds of happiness are associated with dramatically different patterns of gene activity is fatally flawed, according to an analysis published on Monday which tore into its target with language rarely seen in science journals.

August 13, 2014 4:31 pm

Film documents rise and fall of a genome matching service – and poses tough ethical questions

When I think of “science fiction,” I picture three-eyed aliens with purple-and-gold tentacles — not the disturbing demise of a man, and a company, depicted in the film “The Perfect 46.”

August 12, 2014 1:54 pm

Briton with advanced heart failure launches new gene therapy trial

A 37-year-old British man who needs a mechanical pump to keep his heart working has kicked off tests to see if gene therapy could help him recover and potentially avoid the need for a heart transplant.

July 31, 2014 6:01 pm

Blood test could reliably predict risk of suicide attempt

According to a report from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers discovered a chemical alteration in a single human gene linked to stress reactions that, if confirmed in larger studies, could offer doctors a simple blood test to predict a person’s risk of attempting suicide.

July 29, 2014 4:01 pm

Google Seeks Human Guinea Pigs for Health Project

Google’s newest project aims to create a crowd-sourced picture of human health by collecting anonymous genetic and molecular information from participants.

July 15, 2014 2:39 pm

China approves DNA-sequencing devices to detect genetic defects in unborn babies

The mainland has lifted the controversial ban on medical diagnostic products that can help detect birth defects in unborn children.

July 10, 2014 4:03 pm

The Brave New World of Three-Parent I.V.F.

A microscopic image that shows a genome being removed from a donor egg. 1. Manipulation pipette. 2. Donor egg. 3. Holding pipette. 4. Zona pellucida (encircling the egg). 5. Location of the oocyte genome (or nuclear DNA) before removal.

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