By Jeffrey R. Botkin, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Ethics at University of Utah
We are at a critical crossroad in reproductive medicine. How should science and society more broadly manage the powerful new technologies that can alter the genes of human embryos? In a recent paper published in Genetics in Medicine, the official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG), I argue that banning the use of this technology editing human embryo is the right direction.
Concerns over theoretical capabilities of “designer babies” have been with us for generations. The ability screen and test for embryos and fetuses with undesirable characteristics and forestall their birth is well-developed and familiar. But the actual ability to add, subtract or alter genes in the embryo is quite new. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology and related technologies burst on the scene in the last decade and the ability to relatively easily and cheaply to alter human embryos is no longer science fiction.