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Ethical concerns with gene editing

Posted by Media Centre on May 8, 2017 in Department of Bioethics, News, Department of Philosophy

We have the ability to edit the human genome, but questions about how this technology should be used remain contested. In a paper recently published in Nature Human Behaviour, Dalhousie University’s Françoise Baylis, Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, discusses the ethical concerns behind germline genetic modification.

Currently, two types of gene editing are possible. Somatic cell gene editing is used to genetically modify individuals, while germline gene editing genetically modifies both individuals and their offspring. Many potentially negative consequences are associated with germline gene editing. These include the possibility of fundamentally altering human heredity, and using the technology to enhance non-medical physical and mental characteristics (for example, improving athletic abilities) across generations.

With the prospect of creating generations of genetically modified humans within our reach, Dr. Baylis’ paper highlights the need for a broad societal consensus on this complex issue.


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