Hot Topics: Genetics

Blog Posts (86)

October 7, 2016

More on Gene Editing

One version of the headline of a news item in Nature this week is, “UK bioethicists eye designer babies and CRISPR cows.” The UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics has just released a report, “Genome editing: an ethical review.”  The full report and a short summary are available for download here. I must say that my understanding of recent bioethical reflection in the UK leads me... // Read More »
September 30, 2016

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 30, 2016

Technology and Ethics Tech Giants Team Up To Tackle The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, consisting of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM (with Apple in talks to join), weighs in on the … Continue reading
September 29, 2016

Does Mitochondrial Transfer Really Save Lives?

This blog has discussed Mitochondrial Transfer, also referred to as Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques (MRTs), several times in the past (HERE and HERE to link a few.). The reason for further comment is that Dr. John Zhang, a New York-based fertility specialist admitted that he assisted in the successful fertilization and healthy delivery of a now 5 month old baby boy using the technique of Mitochondrial... // Read More »
September 25, 2016

Zika and Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Just last week, I received a call from a pollster.  It’s election season and I live in a hotly contested ‘swing state,’ so I wasn’t surprised.   What surprised me were the questions I was asked, mostly about the Zika virus—its spread and possible prevention.  One question especially caught my attention:  Are you in favor of genetically modified (GM) mosquitos?   Bioethics in a poll question!  I... // Read More »
August 26, 2016

Public discussions on human gene editing

On August 3, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine posted online the slides and talks from its July 12 meeting to discuss public implications of the Human Gene-Editing Initiative.  A total of four meetings plus a related workshop were held: an introductory discussion in December 2015, followed by three more substantial meetings plus the related workshop in February, April, and now July of... // Read More »
August 18, 2016

How can we make the “brave new world” a campaign issue?

Wesley Smith, who, based on his writing, I consider a kindred soul in bioethics, has published an essay in First Things dated August 5, 2016, and entitled, “Brave New World Should be an Election Issue.”  In it, he quickly runs down the revolutionary changes in the very nature of humanity that appear in the offing based on biotechnological developments since the publication of Aldous Huxley’s... // Read More »
August 11, 2016

In Search of a Safe Speed for Gene Driving

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have been pioneers in editing genes with the so-called “CRISPR-Cas9” system to “drive” a genetic trait through an entire population of an organism.  Recently, the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and UCSD released a report with recommendations about how to regulate the testing of this technology so it doesn’t get out of hand.  Briefly, gene drive... // Read More »
August 5, 2016

The surprisingly small benefit of some very (expensive) Big Ideas

Last week, JAMA published online a Viewpoint provocatively titled, “What Happens When Underperforming Big Ideas in Research Become Entrenched?” The overarching Big Idea to which the article refers is the “narrative positing that a combination of ever-deeper knowledge of subcellular biology, especially genetics, coupled with information technology will lead to transformative improvements in health care and human health.” The article highlights three technologies that are... // Read More »
July 28, 2016

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... // Read More »
July 14, 2016

Two more biomedical editorials about the cutting edge

1)      The new issue of Nature Biotechnology carries an erratic editorial complaining that “alarmist” responses to the recent announcement that a project to synthesize an entire human genome may be launched “missed the point.”  The editors say that worries about “synthetic life and secret meetings” missed the point.  The lesser goals of the project—more “nearfetched,” if you will—call for synthesizing long, sub-genomic stretches of DNA... // Read More »

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Published Articles (53)

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 7 Issue 3 - Jul 2016

Concerns about genetic testing for schizophrenia among young adults at clinical high risk for psychosis Ryan E. Lawrence, Phoebe Friesen, Gary Brucato, Ragy R. Girgis & Lisa Dixon

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 7 Issue 3 - Jul 2016

Clarifying ethical responsibilities in pediatric biobanking Merle Spriggs & Craig L. Fry

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 7 Issue 3 - Jul 2016

Lay attitudes toward trust, uncertainty, and the return of pediatric research results in biobanking John Lynch, Janelle Hines, Sarah Theodore & Monica Mitchell

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 12 - Dec 2015

Germline Manipulation and Our Future Worlds John Harris

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 12 - Dec 2015

Human Germline CRISPR-Cas Modification: Toward a Regulatory Framework Niklaus H. Evitt, Shamik Mascharak & Russ B. Altman

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 12 - Dec 2015

Engineering Values Into Genetic Engineering: A Proposed Analytic Framework for Scientific Social Responsibility Pamela L. Sankar & Mildred K. Cho

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 12 - Dec 2015

CRISPR Critters and CRISPR Cracks R. Alta Charo & Henry T. Greely

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 12 - Dec 2015

“Editing” Genes: A Case Study About How Language Matters in Bioethics Meaghan O'Keefe, Sarah Perrault, Jodi Halpern, Lisa Ikemoto, Mark Yarborough & UC North Bioethics Collaboratory for Life & Health Sciences

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 7 - Jul 2015

Looking for Trouble: Preventive Genomic Sequencing in the General Population and the Role of Patient Choice Gabriel Lázaro-Muñoz, John M. Conley, Arlene M. Davis, Marcia Van Riper, Rebecca L. Walker & Eric T. Juengst

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 7 - Jul 2015

Preventive Genomic Sequencing in the General Population: Do PGS Fly? Mildred K. Cho

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News (866)

October 25, 2016 8:00 am

Can Ecstasy Help Relieve Social Anxiety Epidemic Among Autistic People? (NPR)

For a long time, Daniel Au Valencia got the message that she was wrong, wrong, wrong. She stood wrong. She talked wrong. She looked at people wrong. “There’s a lot of shame around autism,” she says. “There’s a lot of being told you look weird.”

October 25, 2016 8:00 am

What Stem Cell Researchers Talk About When They Talk About Ethics (NPR)

Prior to the development of iPSCs, stem cells were derived primarily from eggs fertilized in clinics in vitro that were donated for research purposes. To some, such as President George W. Bush, this was tantamount to abortion. In 2001 he banned federal funding for research on newly created human embryonic stem cell lines. (President Barack Obama lifted that ban in 2009.)

October 18, 2016 8:00 am

DNA’s new ‘miracle’: How adoptees are using online registries to find their blood relatives (Washington Post)

Last year, Bob Nore, a Vietnam War veteran in Huntsville, Ala., was working on a family tree and wanted to trace his ancestors’ history and origins. So he sent a vial of saliva and $89 to a DNA registry for analysis.

October 13, 2016 8:00 am

Major Investor Sues Theranos (WSJ)

One of Theranos Inc.’s biggest financial backers has sued the embattled startup and its founder for allegedly lying to attract its nearly $100 million investment, according to a fund document and people familiar with the matter.

October 7, 2016 8:00 am

This 8-year-old is free of cancer — for now — after a ‘breakthrough’ treatment (Washington Post)

By the time 8-year-old Ava Christianson got to the National Institutes of Health this summer, she had lost several grueling rounds to leukemia and was bracing for the next one.

October 4, 2016 8:00 am

Are Swedish Designer Babies Coming Soon? (Seeker)

A Swedish medical researcher has taken another step toward eventually being able to engineer a custom-made human being. The experiment, first reported on NPR Thursday involves editing the genes of a developing human embryo.

September 28, 2016 10:50 am

World's first baby born from new procedure using DNA of three people (The Guardian)

The world’s first baby to be born from a new procedure that combines the DNA of three people appears to be healthy, according to doctors in the US who oversaw the treatment.

August 17, 2016 8:00 am

Spiking genomic databases with misinformation could protect patient privacy (Nature)

Large genomic databases are indispensable for scientists looking for genetic variations associated with diseases. But they come with privacy risks for people who contribute their DNA. A 2013 study1 showed that hackers could use publicly available information on the Internet to identify people from their anonymized genomic data.

August 2, 2016 8:00 am

New Clues to Depression Spotted in the Genome (Time)

Investigators identify the bad lines of genetic code that may lead to the disease

July 29, 2016 8:13 am

Dolly the Sheep’s Fellow Clones, Enjoying Their Golden Years (New York Times)

Dolly the Sheep started her life in a test tube in 1996 and died just six years later. When she was only a year old, there was evidence that she might have been physically older. At five, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. And at six, a CT scan revealed tumors growing in her lungs, likely the result of an incurable infectious disease. Rather than let Dolly suffer, the vets put her to rest.

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