Viewpoint: The key to ethical human germline editing is ‘slow science’

4-30-2019 embryo x
A pipette injects CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tools into a mouse embryo. Image: University of Utah Health Sciences

The hubris of some scientists knows no bounds. Less than a year after He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysicist, drew scorn and censure for creating gene-edited twins, Denis Rebrikov, a Russian molecular biologist, boldly announced his plan to follow in He’s genome editing footsteps.

The whether of heritable human genome editing has not been resolved, and yet some scientists continue to race ahead with the how of it, essentially ignoring the myriad calls for public consultation. To be sure, other scientists are willing to heed the call, but would prefer to limit public consultation to public education.

I don’t agree with this position. As I write in a new book, “Altered Inheritance,” we need to move the dial from public education (which typically is limited to talking at the public), to public engagement (which necessarily involves listening to the public), and then on to public empowerment (which is about shared decision-making).

Related article:  CRISPR-edited wheat resists humidity damage, could yield higher quality flour

To this end, we need slow science. Science needs time to think and to digest. Time is also needed to promote ethics literacy and to facilitate broad societal consensus — where the goal is unity, not unanimity.

Read full, original post: Before heritable genome editing, we need slow science and dialogue ‘within and across nations’

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