» Genetics Where the World Finds Bioethics Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:24:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 First CRISPR Human Clinical Trial Gets a Green Light from the U.S. Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:00:53 +0000 0 Testing, testing: Prenatal genetic screening Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:01:21 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Mitochondrial replacement boosterism Fri, 10 Jun 2016 03:57:47 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 National Academies on Gene-Drives Fri, 10 Jun 2016 01:57:00 +0000 0 Families Isolated By Rare Genetic Conditions Find New Ways To Reach Out Mon, 06 Jun 2016 12:48:11 +0000 0 Scientists Announce HGP-Write, Project to Synthesize the Human Genome Fri, 03 Jun 2016 13:48:27 +0000 0 Upcoming Update on Human Gene Editing Thu, 02 Jun 2016 14:27:47 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Deliberating Over Ending Two Species When We Are Bringing Tens of Thousands to the Brink of Extinction Wed, 01 Jun 2016 21:48:17 +0000 by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

One of the first news articles I ever wrote in journalism was as an intern at Stanford Magazine. This piece was on research into a human vaccine that would do nothing for us, but would kill any mosquito who happened to bite an inoculated person. The researcher’s ethical question at the time was whether anyone would consent to getting a vaccine that does nothing for her or his personal health.

Twenty-five years later, and this month Smithsonian Magazine published an article on CRISPR-9 gene-editing techniques that will allow for the eradication of mosquitoes.  …

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A Bump on the Road to “3-Parent Babies” Fri, 27 May 2016 04:06:43 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Roundup Ready® Humans Fri, 20 May 2016 20:26:27 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Fabricating Man Fri, 20 May 2016 04:48:52 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Taking a ride down the slippery slope Mon, 16 May 2016 15:09:18 +0000

Did you know: we can now make sperm from embryonic stem cells (in mice).  Not only can we create this sperm, but we can use it to successfully fertilize an egg and develop into a fully grown mouse.  And what is the role of bioethics in this scientific discovery, according to the article?  A brief mention of theoretical ethical issues relegated to the end of the news article that no one reads far enough to see, anyway.


Scientific advancements in reproduction have occurred at an unbelievable rate.  We not only have the ability to create sperm, but we can also create an embryo using three genetic donors, choose or reject embryos based on their genetic traits, such as sex, and correct genetic defects by essentially cutting and pasting healthy DNA sequences over defective ones.  Conversely, using such technology, we also have the potential to clone human beings, choose or reject embryos based on traits such as hair color or athletic ability, and irreversibly alter a germ cell line, potentially leading to unknown negative effects in later generations.


While breakthroughs in reproductive technologies have the potential to address issues as important and varied as male infertility, uterine factor infertility, mitochondrial disease, genetic defects and disease, and even artificial gestation, one wonders whether anyone is stopping to ask: to what end?  How will we use this technology?  What are the short- and long-term effects?  How might this technology be misused?  And, my personal favorite, when will we start to regulate how and when we tinker with biology at a genetic level?


Despite the promise of treatment or eradication of genetic diseases using this technology, there is still a persistent and very realistic fear that this technology will be misused.  Even worse, the misuse may become so common as to be considered acceptable, particularly in our profit-driven fertility industry.  Will the desire to prevent Huntington’s disease also lead to the desire to enhance intelligence?  Can we really resist the urge to create so-called designer babies, and should we accept that while some may win the genetic lottery, others will be able to afford to stack the deck?


Bioethicists are sometimes viewed as obstructionists on the path of progress, unnecessarily blocking scientists from discovering all that can be accomplished through science and medicine. (For an excellent rebuttal, read here).  But the very purpose of the vast and diverse field of bioethics is to identify and acknowledge the normative implications of scientific advances and engage in a dialogue that directly addresses the “should” in a world of “could.”  Hence, the age-old question that is often asked but rarely answered: just because we can do it, does it mean we should?


In the world of reproductive technologies and germline manipulation, perhaps the answer, sometimes, is no.



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 website.


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Researcher under fire for New Yorker epigenetics article Tue, 10 May 2016 12:07:20 +0000 0 Slouching Towards Gattaca Sat, 30 Apr 2016 18:54:35 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 A Bit More about the Minimal Genome Fri, 29 Apr 2016 04:48:15 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Genetic Prime Patterns Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:21:36 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Public Attitudes about Gene Editing Fri, 22 Apr 2016 03:30:51 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Experimentation on nonviable human embryos Wed, 13 Apr 2016 11:26:05 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 How Do ‘Genetic Superheroes’ Overcome Their Bad DNA? Tue, 12 Apr 2016 12:00:38 +0000 0 Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques – is this Human Enhancement? Wed, 23 Mar 2016 02:49:21 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 When Gene Tests for Breast Cancer Reveal Grim Data but No Guidance Mon, 14 Mar 2016 16:19:06 +0000 0 Screening for Alzheimer’s Gene Tests the Desire to Know Mon, 14 Mar 2016 16:18:18 +0000 0 Upcoming Public Meeting and Webcast about Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques Thu, 03 Mar 2016 19:18:35 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 “3-Parent Babies”—Half-Speed Ahead? Thu, 25 Feb 2016 21:43:01 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 How a bite of pizza led to an arrest in the Grim Sleeper serial killer case Tue, 16 Feb 2016 22:00:00 +0000 0 In Embryo Research We Need Laws First, Then Science Mon, 15 Feb 2016 15:31:39 +0000 0 Genetic Testing For BRCA Breast Cancer Gene On The Rise In Young Women; Does It Even Influence Treatment Decisions? Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:29:56 +0000 0 Palo Alto Student Was Asked to Leave School Because of His DNA Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:38:08 +0000 0 UK approves gene editing Fri, 05 Feb 2016 06:58:45 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 The next round of conversations about gene editing Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:08:54 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Ethicists approve “3 parent” embryos to stop diseases, but congressional ban remains Wed, 03 Feb 2016 23:19:59 +0000 0 Tribes’ Win in Fight for La Jolla Bones Clouds Hopes for DNA Studies Mon, 01 Feb 2016 19:14:59 +0000 0 Landmark schizophrenia study expands on gene link, timing Fri, 29 Jan 2016 16:08:38 +0000 0 Can monkeys help unravel the mysteries of autism? Thu, 28 Jan 2016 18:07:16 +0000 0 First children diagnosed in DNA project Thu, 14 Jan 2016 20:56:19 +0000 0 Bay Area biologist’s gene-editing kit lets do-it-yourselfers play God at the kitchen table Tue, 12 Jan 2016 16:00:55 +0000 0 Illumina Launches Firm to Develop NGS Blood-Based Screening Test for Early Cancer Detection Mon, 11 Jan 2016 15:59:18 +0000 0 A Book for Anyone Interested in Bioethics Fri, 08 Jan 2016 04:24:37 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Stanford bringing gene editing to patients with deadly diseases Mon, 04 Jan 2016 23:27:04 +0000 0 “Shrinking” IRBs and Cutting-Edge Bioethics Thu, 31 Dec 2015 19:34:33 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Undiscussed issues in the debate over human germline genetic modification Wed, 16 Dec 2015 14:01:51 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Ethical Human Gene Editing for Sickle Cell Anemia Fri, 11 Dec 2015 05:15:06 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Exploring the Future of Gene Editing Fri, 04 Dec 2015 20:01:02 +0000 by Christopher Thomas Scott

In April 2015 a team of Chinese scientists reported in a little known journal, Protein & Cell, the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to cleave and then repair the HBB gene in nonviable human embryos. The mutated form of HBB causes B-thalassemia, a potentially fatal blood disease. To say the experiment prompted controversy is an understatement. It was published on the heels of two high-profile commentaries in Nature and Science, both of which urged caution about using CRISPR/Cas9 and other technologies to edit the human germline; the Nature authors went so far as to recommend a stop of experiments precisely like the one reported in Protein & Cell.…

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Human Gene Editing: Half Speed Ahead? Fri, 04 Dec 2015 05:18:44 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 This Technology Can Fight Cancer And Create Adorable Mini Pigs. So Why Are Scientists So Worried? Thu, 03 Dec 2015 23:28:03 +0000 0 ‘Gene drive’ tool can prevent epidemics — but should it? Tue, 01 Dec 2015 23:27:11 +0000 0 Germline Manipulation and Our Future Worlds Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:59:02 +0000 0 Human Germline CRISPR-Cas Modification: Toward a Regulatory Framework Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:58:04 +0000 0 Engineering Values Into Genetic Engineering: A Proposed Analytic Framework for Scientific Social Responsibility Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:57:08 +0000 0 CRISPR Critters and CRISPR Cracks Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:56:16 +0000 0