The process of creating GMO life has been seen already on crops, but scientists have started searching for solutions to mutations in human embryos. They created embryos to study them, not to implant them. They hope that in time they’ll achieve a stage in which they could rid humanity of genetic diseases by reprogramming their genes and with new generations, the diseases will be eliminated.
Is This Discovery Breaking Scientific Barriers or Causing Ethical Troubles?
A team of Chinese, South Korean and U.S. scientists were excited at seeing their results in their research. They achieved in creating a treatment for diseases by removing the genes that led to them.
But all these results are in conflict with public policy and bioethics, which didn’t have time to catch up with these revolutionary genetic interventions.
Modifying genes might also cause issues and they could escalate to a major degree when humans will pass their edited genes to their children. Or what will be the results in reproducing people with changed genes with people who didn’t have altered genes? There’s also the question of what will happen if a trait is removed and instead another undesirable one comes out. The similar issue happened to GMO tomatoes which were altered so that they have a uniformly red color but the flavor gene was disabled in the process.
The Adjustments Can be Endless
The ethics in altering genes in humans is major, since if it will be available in the future, will it be used only for curing diseases by removing them or will it be used to remove traits that are less desirable? Could you plan a baby and try to eliminate short stature or personality flaws and so on? Will it be ethically accepted?
Gene altering is an Early Study
This study is early but is sure raises a lot of issues. There are still other variants for treating diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The study first started by editing this hereditary condition out of in-vitro embryos. Normally, children have a 50% chance of getting the condition and if parents have several embryos in-vitro, those who don’t have this mutation will be used for implantation.
At the beginning of this year, in March, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine have recommended that gene editing should focus on removing diseases that don’t have a reasonable treatment, but scientists have already begun their studies in order to solve these diseases.
Ethics is Important Too
The science has evolved faster than public policy and bioethics and these last two fields have to accept an FDA approval for studies to be conducted in human therapies. But this is a research which will happen in a far future. Federal money will not be used on this study this too soon.
There’s also the issue of patenting edited genes and who will be authorized to access gene altering after this intervention will be approved.
This decision will have to be taken at an international convention where governments, physicians, scientists, researchers and consumer advocates will be present. But until then, the research will have to take one step at a time and experiment on animals so that they follow their health for a few generations. In the end, gene altering on humans will be slowly introduced in order to remove untreatable disease or conditions and later on, they will be tracked for years, so that they are safe and healthy.
This study will be a great solution in eliminating deformations which are disabling humans, removing painful conditions or genetic mutations which causes fatal disease. Research is moving fast, but there’s still a lot of time until miracles will be achieved, because this is a very risky intervention which should not be hurried up, it has to be done right, tested a lot, and in a long period of time.