DNA Editing of Eggs and Sperm Could Be in the Future


#1

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Although not ready yet, powerful gene editing tools may one day be used on human embryos, eggs and sperm to remove genes that cause inherited diseases, according to a report by U.S. scientists and ethicists released on Tuesday.

The report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine said scientific advances make gene editing in human reproductive cells "a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration.”

usnews.com/news/news/articles/2017-02-14/scientists-soften-on-dna-editing-of-human-eggs-sperm-embryos-report

Wouldn’t this be considered immoral from a Catholic perspective?


#2

In and of itself would it be considered immoral? Not sure, if it were truly used for the treatment of genetic diseases etc.

But I do see a grey area of where it could become immoral and unethical. If it goes into areas that don’t have anything to do with the treatment and prevention of medical conditions.

This sort of thing already is done in agriculture and animal husbandry.


#3

In Dignitas Personae it is stated that gene therapy to correct genetic abnormalities is morally licit if it is purely to restore normal gene functioning. The modifications could be done in utero or after birth as long as the modifications did not pose undue risk to the person.

As I understand the modifications in the article, it would be morally illicit because it would be done as part of in vitro fertilization.

The portion from DP most directly related would be the second paragraph of section 26 which reads:

The moral evaluation of germ line cell therapy is different. Whatever genetic modifications are effected on the germ cells of a person will be transmitted to any potential offspring. Because the risks connected to any genetic manipulation are considerable and as yet not fully controllable, in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny. In the hypothesis of gene therapy on the embryo, it needs to be added that this only takes place in the context of in vitro fertilization and thus runs up against all the ethical objections to such procedures. For these reasons, therefore, it must be stated that, in its current state, germ line cell therapy in all its forms is morally illicit.


#4

Labs make mistakes by using the wrong mans sperm or implanting the wrong embryo, due to human error and now they want work at the DNA level? This would scare the heck out of me.


#5

More playing God.


#6

This would involve IVF wouldn’t it? If so it’s automatically not allowed. I’m not at all comfortable with this. Like Pope Francis said, we don’t understand the connection between things so we should be very careful in messing with things at this level.


#7

Some of the research currently being done is on human embryos that are destroyed after seven days.

Also see, [CRISPR/Cas-9] Dismay Regarding the Embryonic Research Decision in the United Kingdom [Catholic Bioethics Center] and Engineering the Perfect Baby [MIT Review].

The march toward a future with a real possibility of a eugenics movement seems like a step back to the late 19th century.


#8

Yes. Extremely so.


#9

This is one of the dangers that Dignitas Personae points out. We can (I dare say ,will) come to a point of man trying to taking the place of the creator and man, not God, having ultimate dominion of the world.

What today might be considered non-essential modifications (say larger lung capacity) might then become a “necessity” to perform certain work or live in certain environments. Perhaps better low light vision becomes “necessary” so we borrow a few genes from another species. We could also “turn on” dormant genes to “recover” lost abilities and justify it as a type of return of normal functioning. Ultimately it can lead to a place where we say we can improve on God’s design and thereby fall into hubris to think we know better than our creator.

Ultimately the issue is not the technology, but rather how it is developed (generally through testing on and destroying human embryos) and the fact that mankind has a bad habit of ethical constraint. As the scientific community’s “softening” their stance shows, they will continue to evolve the ethics until genetic manipulation is a human right.


#10

I think the IVF part would make it morally problematic, BUT if there were a way to fix the genetic defect in an egg, and then place it back in the Fallopian tube for fertilization the traditional way it might be acceptable.

l have about chemotherapy patients saving part of their ovary and then reintroducing it after chemotherapy is over. The saved ovarian tissue kick started the reproductive system, and they were able to conceive naturally.


#11

I would imagine what you describe here MIGHT be ok, but I see tons of abuse


#12

Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I had no idea that was even possible!

Abortion is really my only personal reason for being against IVF. I won’t use it regardless but that’s my main issue with it.

I’d still be nervous about manipulating DNA. Wouldn’t the manipulated DNA be spread through reproduction? I don’t know a lot about this stuff but that scares me a little bit.


#13

That is precisely the concern with germ line modifications. The changes would be carried forward to subsequent generations, so the question (or risk) is how the modification will propagate going forward and how stable the modifications are in subsequent generations. I am far from a geneticist, but I understand that many genetic anomalies are related to multiple genes or that there are complimentary genes that could be affected. I do not know that we fully understand the complex interactions to be able to predict how these things might carry forward. It is also possible that in fixing 1 defect could trigger other defects in subsequent generations that were unanticipated. In many ways it opens us to human experimentation that could impact generations.


#14

That’s just tip of the iceberg. Would modified persons be required to inform partners before marriage or provocative acts? Or, what of those who wish to transition to a different species/hybrid?

I do not know that we fully understand the complex interactions to be able to predict how these things might carry forward. It is also possible that in fixing 1 defect could trigger other defects in subsequent generations that were unanticipated. In many ways it opens us to human experimentation that could impact generations.

The various invasive species issues is the biggest monument to the fact that we tend to alter complex systems without proper knowledge.


#15

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Although not ready yet, powerful gene editing tools may one day be used on human embryos, eggs and sperm to remove genes that cause inherited diseases, according to a report by U.S. scientists and ethicists released on Tuesday.

As long as they don’t use “autocorrect”…


#16

Does this mean we can’t do this ethically?


#17

It’s a disaster waiting to happen. We’re talking about a field where they even knees and patients mixed-up in surgeries.


closed #18

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