CRISPR Questions

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 08/24/2017
Cancer survivors can carry germline mutations that will be transmitted to their progeny. Today, many of these mutations have been identified and can be tracked. With the recent development of genome-editing technologies and CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), the possibility of genetically modifying the human germline—gametes and embryos—has never been closer.

This perspective has sparked a controversy within the scientific community with reactions ranging from calls for a ban on germline modification to cautious approval of further research.

A new article in the DIA journal, Therapeutic Innovation and Regulatory Science, analyzes the possible adoption of CRISPR-based germline engineering to prevent the spread of cancer predispositions in the human population. Implications of CRISPR-Based Germline Engineering for Cancer Survivors discusses whether the genomic edition of human sperm and eggs would contribute to rectifying or altering the heritable genome.

The paper anticipates the emergence of a new form of liberal eugenics fueled by a logic of offer and demand from stakeholders such as cancer survivors and their relatives and offspring, but also from fertility clinics, biotech firms, insurers, and clinicians. From a regulatory perspective, validating the clinical safety and utility of CRISPR-based germline engineering is an essential step. However, with time, gradually perfecting the technology and assessing the economic benefits for stakeholders could soften society’s resistance and align opinions in support of genomic decontamination of human germlines. This progressive shift would be justified in the name of cancer prevention as well as a moral obligation to facilitate the conception of cancer-free children at a cost that is acceptable to individuals and health systems.

It’s a worthwhile read.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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