With the recent He Jiankui experiment of gene-hacking human embryos, scientists around the globe are now scrambling to find and establish new ground rules for genetics research.
In the past, we’ve seen some guidelines for artificial intelligence development. Now, new reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) offer recommendations and ethical guidelines based on research that has been done with AI around the world.
Recent advances in the CRISPR technology will only be used for medical purposes and not for human augmentation. Meaning everyday consumers who were looking to take advantage of the tech will not be allowed to do so.
We want people to look at what is happening now and what we need to do to shape the way the research will proceedFrançoise Baylis – Gene Editing Ethicist at Dalhousie University
Alongside gene editing to boost human performance, reports also encourage against germline edits. This is any alteration that someone will pass along to their children and future generations.
Ethicists generally agree that it’s best to focus on edits meant for treating or reversing illnesses.
The report also sought to guarantee equitable distribution of gene therapy throughout the world. Too often, its authors said, clinical trials will be conducted in poorer countries while the resulting therapies end up in wealthier nations.
The WHO reports run into similar issues as other international treaties: it’s not clear who will enforce them beyond voluntary adherence.
It is still a very open question in my mind of who is responsible for doing it, and who is going to step up.
Jeffrey Kahn – Bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University