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The Ethics Of Human Gene Editing

human gene editing
Kin Cheung
Tetsuya Ishii of Hokkaido University speaks during the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.

Last November a Chinese scientist reported the birth of twin girls whose genes he had edited. Using CRISPR technology, he claimed he altered their genes to include a variant that protected against transmission of HIV.

The experiment was immediately condemned by the scientific community as being too risky, and highlighted the importance of ethical standards and guidelines in medical research.

Genome editing, a type of genetic engineering, has vast potential to improve our lives. But it also carries serious risks, and raises serious ethical concerns.

The fields of medical and scientific research have long been subject to ethical guidelines, but the rate of new technologies and discoveries can challenge and overtake established rules and raise questions about what is ethical.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss biomedical ethics are University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Assistant Professor of Dermatology Anne Housholder, MD, who serves on the UC Health Ethics Committee and the Center for Clinical & Translational Science & Training (CCTST) Bioethics Group; Director of the Ethics Center at Cincinnati Children’s, Lee Ault Carter Chair of Pediatric Ethics and UC College of Medicine Professor of Pediatrics Armand H. Antommaria, MD, PhD; UC Assistant Vice President for Ethics in Industry Engagement and UC College of Medicine Assistant Professor, Holly Bante, PhD, MPH; and Cincinnati Children’s Division of Infectious Diseases Medical Director, Director of the Vaccine Research Center, UC and College of Medicine Professor of Pediatrics, Robert Frenck Jr., MD. Dr. Frenck also chairs the Institutional Review Board at Cincinnati Children's.

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