Bioethics @ TIU

There’s gene therapy and there’s gene therapy

Posted November 9th, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

I’ve seen a number of different things described in the general press as “gene therapy.” But they are indeed different.  It’s important to be specific. For one, there’s the situation where a set of mature human cells are obtained from the person to be treated and genetically altered outside the body to make them into a potentially useful treatment, then re-administered (by vein) to the… // Read More »

Two cases of genetics ethics issues

Posted October 12th, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

There is an ongoing NIH-sponsored database effort called the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project the goal of which is to collect data on genetics–not just DNA gene sequences, but also gene activity, looking at “expression,” which is reflected in the RNA that is transcribed from genes–in a wide range of human tissues.  The tissues are obtained from deceased voluntary organ donors.  The ethical issues are not… // Read More »

Human gene editing marches on

Posted October 5th, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

Nature has recently carried two new reports of human gene editing.  In one, embryos donated from an IVF clinic had a gene critical to very early development altered, to study what happens when you do that, and try to understand early human development more than we now do.  In the other, scientists studied editing of an abnormal recessive gene, specifically the one causing a type… // Read More »

Is Obfuscation Ever Helpful in Science or Ethics?

Posted October 3rd, 2017 by Mark McQuain

Obfuscation and science would seem to be polar opposites. The scientific method hinges upon correctly identifying what one starts with, making a single known alteration in that starting point, and then accurately determining what one ends up with. Scientific knowledge results from this process. Accidental obfuscation in that three-step process necessarily limits the knowledge that could potentially be gleaned from the method. Peer review normally… // Read More »

Questioning whether genes in human embryos were in fact successfully edited

Posted August 31st, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

Nature reports that the editing of a gene in human embryos–reported earlier in August and discussed recently on this blog–has been questioned by a different group of scientists. Read a fuller, general-public-level description here. The questioning scientists doubt a specific claim of the initial work; namely, that a faulty gene in human sperm was edited through a corresponding gene in the human egg fertilized by… // Read More »

Search and destroy—or at least, select

Posted August 17th, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

This week’s issue of Nature carries a feature article on the explosion of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in China.  Because women are having children later in life, partly because of relaxation of the old one-child policy; because Chinese culture sees it as a duty to seek to bear healthy children; because some Chinese want to try to enable their kids to exploit some features of… // Read More »

CRISPR and Identity

Posted August 15th, 2017 by Mark McQuain

Dr. Joel Reynolds, a postdoctoral fellow at The Hastings Center recently wrote a very poignant essay in Time magazine arguing that our increasing ability to edit our own genetic code risks eventually eliminating the very genetic code that results in people like his younger brother Jason, who was born with muscle-eye-brain disease, resulting in muscular dystrophy, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, severe nearsightedness and intellectual disability. In… // Read More »

The goal of human embryonic gene editing is enhancement

Posted August 2nd, 2017 by Steve Phillips

As Jon Holmlund reported in his post last week, research on the editing of genes in human embryos is now being conducted in the United States. The door to doing this research was opened by the consensus report on Human Genome Editing published by the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year. That report encouraged the pursuit of research on gene editing in human embryos… // Read More »

Human genetic editing (engineering) is here

Posted July 27th, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

A “hat tip” again to Wesley Smith, who at the National Review Online blog, provided a link to this week’s report in the MIT Technology Review that the first editing of genes in human embryos in the US is underway—and apparently not yet formally published—at an academic center in Portland, Oregon.  Similar efforts have been undertaken in China, but US scientists have been a little… // Read More »

All we like SHEEFs, Part 2

Posted May 11th, 2017 by Jon Holmlund

Carrying on with last week’s musings… In thinking further, I think my attempt was confused by conflating the moral status of a SHEEF—a synthetic human entity with embryo-like features, something more than a clump of cells of human origin, but less than a human being—with reasons why I might want to hold that nobody should ever make certain sorts of SHEEFs. Again, SHEEFs are human,… // Read More »