Hot Topics: Genetics

Blog Posts (82)

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 »
June 10, 2016

Testing, testing: Prenatal genetic screening

The June 2016 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology includes a study of the conversations between patients and “Health Care Providers” about prenatal genetic screening (PGS). The objective of the study was to “assess how obstetric health care providers counsel patients regarding prenatal genetic screening and how these conversations influence patients’ screening decisions.” PGS refers to blood and ultrasound tests performed early in pregnancy to determine... // Read More »
June 9, 2016

Mitochondrial replacement boosterism

A new Viewpoint article (available for free, without a prescription) from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) asserts that the United States is acting too slowly to advance mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs), the so-called “3-parent baby” approach that would seek to prevent mitochondrial DNA disease, which is transmitted maternally.  The authors approve of the recent recommendations by the afore-named Institute of Medicine (IOM),... // Read More »
June 9, 2016

National Academies on Gene-Drives

Why would you read all the coverage of the National Academies Gene-Drives report when you could actually read the report itself? My thoughts will appear here later, after I've read the report itself.
June 2, 2016

Upcoming Update on Human Gene Editing

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) will hold a workshop on gene editing July 14-15, 2016 in Washington, D.C.   I regret I will not be able to attend, but interested parties may at least glean some information about the scope of the meeting by following the link to review the program. The information there is necessarily limited, but it looks like most of the presentations... // 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 (859)

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.

July 27, 2016 8:46 am

Building a Better Human With Science? The Public Says, No Thanks (New York Times)

Americans aren’t very enthusiastic about using science to enhance the human species. Instead, many find it rather creepy

July 11, 2016 8:09 am

Juno Halts Cancer Trial Using Gene-Altered Cells After 3 Deaths (New York Times)

Three patients in a study testing the use of genetically engineered cells as a treatment for cancer have died from swelling in the brain, dealing a setback to one of the most exciting pursuits in oncology.

June 24, 2016 8:00 am

First CRISPR Human Clinical Trial Gets a Green Light from the U.S. (Scientific American)

CRISPR, the genome-editing technology that has taken biomedical science by storm, is finally nearing human trials.

June 6, 2016 8:48 am

Families Isolated By Rare Genetic Conditions Find New Ways To Reach Out (NPR)

Shortly after Milo Lorentzen was born, nurses whisked him away to the neonatal intensive care unit for low blood sugar and jaundice. An exam then found a cluster of irregularities, including a cleft palate and a hole in his heart.

June 3, 2016 9:48 am

Scientists Announce HGP-Write, Project to Synthesize the Human Genome (New York Times)

Scientists on Thursday formally announced the start of a 10-year project aimed at vastly improving the ability to chemically manufacture DNA, with one of the goals being to synthetically create an entire human genome.

May 10, 2016 8:07 am

Researcher under fire for New Yorker epigenetics article (Nature)

A story about epigenetics in the 2 May issue of The New Yorker has been sharply criticized for inaccurately describing how genes are regulated. The article by Siddhartha Mukherjee — a physician, cancer researcher and award-winning author at Columbia University in New York — examines how environmental factors can change the activity of genes without altering the DNA sequence. Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, posted two widely discussed blog posts calling the piece “superficial and misleading”, largely because it ignored key aspects of gene regulation.

April 12, 2016 8:00 am

How Do 'Genetic Superheroes' Overcome Their Bad DNA?

Scientists say they’ve figured out how to track down people they call “genetic superheroes.” These are people who remain healthy even though they were born with genetic mutations that would usually lead to devastating disorders. If enough of these people can be identified and studied, the researchers hope they could yield important new insights into the causes of many genetic disorders and possibly lead to new ways to prevent or treat them.

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