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About Medical Gene Transfer

Sometimes called "gene therapy," medical gene transfer involves adding or modifying genes in a person's cells (other than those found in his or her sperm or eggs). The "new" genes are intended to function in ways that would alleviate a medical condition. They would not be passed on to any future generations.

Arguments Pro & Con

Gene transfer may eventually become an effective treatment for some important medical conditions. Clinical trials have been underway since 1990, but so far have been mostly unsuccessful, involved several conflict-of-interest scandals, and produced adverse results including deaths.

Gene transfer has also been proposed for "enhancement" purposes. This application could raise troubling social and ethical questions.

Gene therapies offer dramatic promise but shocking costsby Carolyn Y. Johnson & Brady DennisThe Washington PostNovember 11th, 2015Researchers have partially restored a patient's vision by targeting a gene associated with Leber's congenital amaurosis, but the treatment could cost $500,000 per eye.
Should Human Stem Cells Be Used To Make Partly Human Chimeras?by Rob SteinNPRNovember 6th, 2015The NIH has declared a moratorium on research that puts human stem cells into nonhuman animal embryos.
New CRISPR Protein Slices through Genomes, Patent Problemsby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewSeptember 25th, 2015With patent rights and Nobel Prize announcements pending, the Broad Institute's Feng Zhang reports the development of a new CRISPR gene editing enzyme.
Considering CRISPR: Putting a thumb on the scale?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 24th, 2015The National Academies have announced the date for their International Summit on Human Gene Editing. Are some of the organizers trying to predetermine the outcome?
The hidden risks for 'three-person' babiesby Garry HamiltonNature NewsSeptember 23rd, 2015"There's a definite possibility you'd see things like disrupted fertility function, various forms of metabolic syndromes and changes in things that relate to metabolism in general."
Center for Genetics and Society comments on First Application to Pursue Genome Editing Research in Human Embryos[Press statement]September 18th, 2015"If scientists and the regulatory agency in the UK are serious about responsible use of powerful new gene altering technologies, they won't be rushing ahead in ways that could open the door to genetically modified humans."
The Rhetorical Two-Step: Steven Pinker, CRISPR, and Disabilityby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorSeptember 4th, 2015Steven Pinker’s invitation for bioethics to “get out of the way” of the CRISPR revolution typifies a rhetorical pattern: uncritical support for human-focused biotech is paired with a negative view of disability.
Calls for IVF laws to be changed to take advantage of gene editing technique by Steve ConnorThe IndependentSeptember 2nd, 2015A statement by medical research funders in the UK suggests that benefits of modifying the human germ-line could outweigh the ethical objections.
Genome Editing: The Age of the Red Pen [Cites CGS]The EconomistAugust 22nd, 2015Germline editing is widely seen as a bourn no ethical traveller should cross. Some scientists want a moratorium on any work aimed at engineering the germ line; others say basic research should continue.
'Gene Drive': Scientists Sound Alarm Over Supercharged GM Organisms Which Could Spread in the Wild and Cause Environmental Disastersby Steve ConnorThe IndependentAugust 2nd, 2015Scientists fear new technique for generating “supercharged” genetically modified organisms that can spread rapidly in the wild may be misused and cause health emergency or environmental disaster.
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