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Advocating Human Germline Interventions

Posted by Pete Shanks on October 28th, 2012


Shoukrat Mitalipov
Shoukrat Mitalipov

Scientists in Oregon have published a paper [abstract] that explicitly challenges the legal and procedural system that forbids genetic experiments on future generations. And much of the media didn't seem to notice how radical the proposal is. Just look at these headlines:

  • DNA-swap technology almost ready for fertility clinic (Nature News)
  • Exchange of DNA Between Egg Cells May Help Prevent Mitochondrial Diseases (Science Now)
  • New gene therapy method replaces mitochondrial DNA, study says (Los Angeles Times)
  • Genetic Diseases May Be Fixed Pre-Conception in Eggs, Study Says (Bloomberg)
  • DNA Switch Shows Promise Against Genetic Disease (Wall Street Journal)

These articles are by respected journalists (who, to be fair, may not have written the headlines) in serious journals and newspapers. And they appear to ignore the implications of the title of the peer-reviewed paper they are discussing:

Towards germline gene therapy of inherited mitochondrial diseases

Shoukrat Mitalipov (pictured above) and colleagues deserve some credit for being forthright. They created "three-parent" blastocysts (essentially as discussed here) and tested them by generating embryonic stem cells. Three years ago, they used the same process in monkeys, and produced four live offspring. If the same procedure were to be used to generate human babies, as they propose, it would constitute germline intervention — changing the genes of future people — which has been off limits for years.

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Posted in A "Post-Human" Future?, Global Governance, Inheritable Genetic Modification, Media Coverage, Medical Gene Transfer, Pete Shanks's Blog Posts, US Federal


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