Gene Editing Technologies Should Be Regulated, Not Abolished

Coller, B. S. (2019). Ethics of human genome editing. Annual Review of Medicine, 70(1), 289–305.

This article is a full review of various gene editing applications and principles of regulating them, with multiple examples. The author covers all common issues of suspicious attitudes toward genetic engineering, starting from general ones such as consent problems in the case of embryos’ genome editing. He also shows the possible problems of inequity as the result of genetic enhancements (Coller, 2019). The article shows differences between therapy and enhancement, and prevention as the intermediate between them. It offers the NAS/NAM committee recommendations about the usage of CRISPR/Cas9 for the treatment: they include the maximum transparency of such treatment while ensuring the patient’s privacy (Coller, 2019). In that way, the article suggests that while the development of gene-editing technologies is positive, it should be used only when other treatments are not working. This article is trustworthy, as it is academic and peer-reviewed, and it can be used to address all common objections against gene-editing technology.

Cwik, B. (2019). Moving beyond ‘Therapy’ and ‘Enhancement’ in the ethics of gene editing. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 28(04), 695–707.

This peer-reviewed article shows the issues connected with a possible human enhancement using gene-editing technologies. It shows that while such an enhancement is indeed possible, it has a problem with the possibility of new eugenics and discrimination. The author argues that the concept of neuroethics is essential for the discussion about human genetic enhancement. Such an enhancement would increase the cognitive abilities of future generations; while the brain is the essential instrument of humans, it can lead to unprecedented discrimination based on cognitive skills (Cwik, 2019). The author argues that bioethicists should consider this question as gene-editing technologies continue to develop. This article can be used to show the dangers of genetic enhancement and the possible concepts required to solve them.

Gaskell, G., Bard, I., Allansdottir, A., da Cunha, R. V., Eduard, P., Hampel, J., Hildt, E., Hofmaier, C., Kronberger, N., Laursen, S., Meijknecht, A., Nordal, S., Quintanilha, A., Revuelta, G., Saladié, N., Sándor, J., Santos, J. B., Seyringer, S., Singh, I.,… Zwart, H. (2017). Public views on gene editing and its uses. Nature Biotechnology, 35(11), 1021–1023.

It is a peer-reviewed survey result conducted in the United States and ten European countries, showing public opinions toward genetic engineering. The survey’s statistics and data proceeding are clearly shown and reliable. First of the main findings from the survey is that most people approve the gene therapy for curing hereditary diseases in adults more than in human embryos or germ cells. The same opinions are toward genetic enhancement: the usage of genetic engineering to choose the better set of genes for a person was more welcomed for adults than for human embryos (Gaskell et al., 2017). The second finding is that, in general, attitudes toward genetic treatment were much more positive than toward genetic enhancement. More than half of the respondents were still happy with the idea of prenatal genetic therapy. On the contrary, the concept of prenatal enhancement was approved only by several percent of people and not in all countries (Gaskell et al., 2017). The survey shows that people generally consider technology’s applications as more important than the technology itself; its results can be used to support the thesis about the regulation of gene-editing technologies.

Gyngell, C., Douglas, T., & Savulescu, J. (2016). The ethics of germline gene editing. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 34(4), 498–513.

This peer-reviewed philosophy article evaluates the risks and benefits of human embryos gene editing. It concludes that this technology is rather positive than negative and should be approved to use. It shows that the development and usage of gene editing technologies improve people’s understanding of how genes work, enhancing knowledge in general. Scientists still know a few about human embryonic developments, and the improvement of that knowledge will benefit humanity (Gyngell et al., 2016). It also shows examples of successful genetic treatments as the arguments of their usefulness.

The second part of the article shows the possible risks of such a technology. Those are safety, germline change issues, consent of future generations, and enhancement issues (Gyngell et al., 2016). For example, the germline changes and consent issues will be solved when scientists can guarantee that gene therapy will cure hereditary diseases and not create new problems: in that way, changes will be positive. The development of gene-editing technologies will solve the problems with safety. The inequity issues can be solved by developing policies, social development in general, and ensuring that all people access the technologies (Gyngell et al., 2016). In that way, gene editing technologies are considered positive and beneficial for humanity. This article provides a reasonable basis for arguing about the usefulness of gene-editing technologies.

Ishii, T. (2017). The ethics of creating genetically modified children using genome editing. Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity, 24(6), 418–423.

The author describes the ethical aspects of genetic modification of human embryos and human stem cells. He shows actual statistics: more than 70% of 39 countries in a recent survey consider modifying the human embryo’s genome illegal (Ishii, 2017). The article also describes the entire cycle of the technology: taking the zygote, modifying it in the laboratory, transferring it back in the womb, and further monitoring its development. He shows the possible problems of each stage, from gene-injection errors and misdiagnosis in the initial stages to miscarriage and health problems in childhood as a result of the wrong usage of gene therapy (Ishii, 2017). While supporting the development of gene-editing technologies in general, the author argues that clinical trials with human embryos should be conducted only after developing strong, clear, and consistent international policies. This article will be helpful when showing the specific safety issues of genetic engineering of humans.

Jasanoff, S., & Hurlbut, J. B. (2018). A global observatory for gene editing. Nature, 555(7697), 435–437.

The results of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in 2015 are described in this article, along with a proposition to create an “observatory” for the regulation of gene editing. The concept of this observatory is the main topic of the article: it is the structure for communication between universities, government officials, community organizations around the world (Jasanoff & Hurlbut, 2018). It is shown that such a structure will ensure a mutual understanding between different organizations that have various intentions and interests. In addition, such an observatory is necessary for successful international cooperation regarding cultural differences between countries and their different level of development (Jasanoff & Hurlbut, 2018). In general, the article describes the possible communications in gene editing technologies and bioethics and emphasizes its necessity; it is helpful to show how such communications are developing worldwide.

Johnston, J. (2020). Shaping the CRISPR gene-editing debate: Questions about enhancement and germline modification. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 63(1), 141–154.

This article analyzes ethical questions raised in the context of CRISPR/Cas9 usage and human genetic engineering in general. It shapes the distinctions between treatment and enhancement, which is often unclear in discussions regarding gene-editing technologies. The author also covers other credits, emphasizing their fuzziness: in general, this is the article’s main point (Johnston, 2020). She shows that the distinctions between terms are significant in the case of discussions about gene therapy implementations; this article is useful for defining the terms.

Krimsky, S. (2019). Ten ways in which He Jiankui violated ethics. Nature Biotechnology, 37(1), 19–20.

This article is a quick summary of how gene-editing technologies might be wrong from an ethical point of view. It can be considered the other side of the discussion: it criticizes the decision of Chinese scientists, led by He Jiankui, to conduct clinical trials of genetic modification on human embryos. Firstly, it states that those experiments were a violation of international norms. In 2015, the International Summit of Human Gene Editing noted that no human embryos should be modified before the precise international regulation of such experiments will be implemented (Krimsky, 2019). The author also states that Jiankui violated the ethical norms of China, his own university, and the research in general. He refused to reveal his intentions and conflicts of interest to parents who were participants in his study (Krimsky, 2019). In that way, the author argues that Chinese experiments with human germ cells were a severe violation of all ethical and international norms and that similar cases should be prevented. This article is helpful as an example of an analysis of why gene editing practice can be unethical.

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