Study 'editing' human DNA in embryos divides scientists
"The day could come where people would look at children with genetic abnormalities and think, how could their parents have done that to them, why didn't they genetically alter when they had the chance." - Kerry Bowman, Bioethicist
Earlier this year, scientists working at a university in China did something that other scientists around the world said crossed a line. Their research experiment involved doing something the scientific community had long expected would happen, but which no one had dared to do yet.
For the first time ever, they did a sort of genetic modification on a human embryo. It's euphemistically described as "editing" the human genome. And it's the type of work that could eventually prevent children from being born with severe birth defects, as a result of their genetic makeup.
But where some see hope, others have grave fears. Because the type of genetic "edits" they're pursuing would be permanent with the changes passed down through future generations.
The experiment may have been ground breaking, but it's proven so controversial that high profile scientific journals have refused to publish the research.
Sara Reardon has been covering this issue. She is a biomedical reporter with the journal Nature's news service.
The research we've been discussing has sparked some wide-ranging debate from those saying that it could be a boon for future generations... to those calling for a moratorium on any further research.
- Kerry Bowman is a bio-ethicist at the University of Toronto.
- Jehannine Austin is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia, and Canada Research Chair in Translational Psychiatric Genomics.
What do you think of where this genetic science is taking us? Does it make you hopeful or fearful?
This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant.
Ethics of embryo editing paper divides scientists - Sara Reardon, Nature's News Service
The case for genetically engineered babies - The Guardian
Researchers alter embryo that could permanently change human DNA - The National Post