September 01, 2016

CRISPR Lit the Fire: Ethics Must Drive Regulation of Germline Engineering

The capacity to sequence a human genome cheaply and the discovery that CRISPR/Cas technology can be used to make more precise genetic edits than previously possible do not change the decades-long debate on whether to genetically edit the human genome. Instead, they make urgent the need for regulation and education informed by comprehensive ethical analysis. Although there is a great deal of attention being given to genetically editing adult cells for purposes of treating health conditions in an individual, this discussion will focus on the most consequential and controversial question, which is whether we should be allowed to make changes to the germline—eggs, sperm, and embryos—that will manifest in a person and be passed on to that person’s children. If so, what kinds of changes should be allowed?

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