Do we need a broad consensus in society before rolling out vital new medical therapies?
Russell Blackford in APPS Policy Forum:
CRISPR-Cas9 is a dramatic development in genetic technology. It is a powerful, relatively simple, and increasingly precise technique for editing the DNA of living organisms. Its potential application to human beings was highlighted in April 2015, when researchers in China reported their experiments on non-viable human zygotes.
The paper by Puping Liang and others was published in the scientific journal Protein & Cell. It describes the difficulties encountered, and draws a plainly reasonable conclusion: more research is needed before attempting clinical applications of CRISPR-Cas9. That noted, the precision of gene-editing techniques is now advancing rapidly.
At some point, treatments employing CRISPR-Cas9 modifications to ordinary human cells will become available to adults and children with genetic problems. In principle, however, modifying the DNA of early embryos or germ cells is a more straightforward and powerful application of the technology. Should we go so far?