The Ethics of Editing Humans

The scientist who co-discovered Crispr does not appear to be weighed down by the burden of her creation: the revolutionary gene-editing technology that promises to empower humans to control our own genome.

Crispr is now the simplest, cheapest and most accurate way to edit our DNA, but its development raises a multitude of moral questions. Fine-tuning our immune systems to fight cancer is one thing — but given how much we have still to discover about the genome, what might be the unintended consequences of altering it? These are not merely speculative questions. In the years since Doudna’s discovery, a Chinese scientist sent shockwaves through the international scientific community when he announced the birth of the first Crispr-modified babies.

“One of the big challenges with gene editing is to think about how we take a very powerful technology that has a lot of potential and make it more widely available,” says Doudna, as we settle down at a small table in the light-filled room. “I don’t want it to be something that is only available to a few. That’s a big push, a big challenge.

“But also we need to be thinking about these broader implications of a powerful technology and how to develop them responsibly.”

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