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The Research Essay: Bioethics in Genomics

The Research Essay: Bioethics in Genomics


Genome Editing: Uncovering the Potential and Ethical
Consequences of it

                                                                                                  Abrar Shafi                        
                                                                                   The City college of New York
                                                                                                 FIQWS 10111
                                                                                                Brenna Crowe   
                                                                                             November 11, 2023                                                                                                        

Genome editing is a modern scientific method which created a lot of attention and discussion in the scientific community and beyond. Gene editing is also known as genome editing. It is a scientific process of carefully altering slightly changed the DNA of a cell or an organism. With genome editing we can modify human characteristics and potentially eradicate genetic diseases. It uses advanced technology like CRISPR(Cas9), which is claimed to improve people’s lives but may not fully guarantee a brighter future for future generations. While genome editing offers a lot of promise, but at the same time it also creates ethical concerns that cannot be ignored. In this essay, I will talk about the ethical and social concerns of genome editing also with a focus on the importance of responsible use as well as unexpected effects.
Out of all the genome editing methods CRISPR/Cas9 is the most common and widely used one. Germline gene editing is one of the three ways we can use genome editing for human health by using CRISP.  Scientists use it by modifying genes in gametes or embryos in order to fix mutations that cause illness in the future generation. CRISPR/Cas9 is an RNA-based system because of that it can target many locations and be edited more effectively and easily than protein-based methods. Although germline gene editing sounds helpful for generations there are ethical concerns connected to it, and it’s banned in the US. The use of germline editing may prevent a specific genetic condition from affecting future generations in a family, but there is a chance that it may have unanticipated long-term negative effects or alter a fetus’s development. According to this article, “Because people who would be affected by germline gene therapy are not yet born, they can’t choose whether to have the treatment”(What are the ethical issues surrounding gene therapy?,Line 16). From this one can infer that germline editing is not ethically correct because if anything affects the person in future the whole next future generation from that person might get affected.
Also, people might use it to enhance basic human traits such as height, intelligence, or athletic ability. Which can create a society less accepting of people who are different or who have a particular disability or genetic condition. As human beings these human traits make us different from each other.
On the other hand, social concerns about genome editing are impactable for the public. Genome editing costs a good amount of money, between $1 million and $2 million per dose. Which is outrageous money for an average human being. This again led us to economic inequality. Also, if poor people can’t afford genome therapy they might be treated less in society. There is a possible chance that they might be categorized as bad genes. Which led us to social inequality. As we can see from this article “If CRISPR is put to use to eliminate rather than to treat genetic difference, we as a society would essentially instrumentalize this moralistic and reductionist assumption” (Sufia,2021,Para21).  From the text, I can conclude the slight wrong use of CRISP to improve abilities can create a difference in society. Also, it shows how we are deciding as a society whether the level of genetic variety is desirable or ethically acceptable. We are decreasing the variety and quantity of the genes that humans possess to meet a certain limited set of genetic traits that we consider desirable  by employing CRISPR to eradicate genetic variations.
Some might argue that Genome editing is totally safe to use and it’s a very big advancement for humanity to be able to cure diseases. Also, they believe human genome editing may lead to more focused and quicker therapies, more precise diagnoses, and the prevention of inherited illnesses. Many dangerous diseases such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis could be treated through this technology. According to the passage “Somatic gene therapies, which involve modifying a patient’s DNA to treat or cure a disease, have been successfully used to address HIV, sickle-cell disease and transthyretin amyloidosis. The technique could also vastly improve treatment for a variety of cancers”(WHO issues new recommendations on human genome editing for the advancement of public health,2021,Line14). In my opinion
I agree with the author that using genome editing for gene therapy and curing patients is morally and ethically fine. However, Gene editing technologies have the possibility of being abused to produce designer babies or to improve a human’s features beyond what is medically necessary, which would raise ethical and moral issues.
Not only that but also, informed consent plays an important role in medical industries and Genome editing. It provides the patients to understand the nature, risks, and potential benefits of any medical procedure or treatment they undergo. In Genome editing, getting honest informed consent is complex due to the innovative and experimental nature of these treatments. Which creates an issue of patients not having enough information about gene editing. In the case of Genome editing patients should not only be aware of the intended benefits but also understand the potential risks, uncertainties, and long-term consequences associated with genetic modifications.
As the author states “Researchers and bioethicists also worry about the possibility of obtaining truly informed consent from prospective parents as long as the risks of germline therapy are unknown”(What are the Ethical Concerns of Genome Editing?, Pg10). This shows that, given the unknown risks associated with gene therapy, we have to worry about obtaining appropriate informed consent. New parents may not know all the long-term consequences or unexpected effects on the next generation. This uncertainty illustrates the ethical challenges of gene therapy and the caution needed for its use. which makes it difficult to provide complete information to make informed decisions.
One of the other moral concerns related to genome editing is respect for human dignity. If genome editing is used in the wrong way besides diagnostic or therapeutic purposes also,  its aim is not to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants; it can lead to breaking the respect of human dignity. As the author states, “the use of genetic technologies in humans ‘permits a eugenic and racist selection of the human race, it offends human dignity’, and that it must be prohibited in order to protect the rights of each individual to ‘his or her own genetic identity’(Shozi, 2021, pg 12).  The article explains that gene editing can be used in humans to selectively and discriminately adjust populations, similar to eugenics practices. This process can be based on values ​​such as race, which can unfairly advantage or disadvantage certain groups. Every person has the right to maintain their unique biological identity.The practices like this are considered offensive to the principles of human dignity. To prevent potential abuse and protect individual rights we can ban the use of certain genetic technologies.
Although genome editing has enormous potential to advance scientific medicine, its use is strongly tied to moral issues that need to be carefully considered and acknowledged. Mixing science with doing the right thing can be tricky, especially when we have technology like CRISPR-Cas9. There are lots of unknowns about what might go wrong and for that getting people’s real permission is hard. Also, using these technologies could make existing problems in society even worse. As I mentioned in all the evidence, it’s clear that messing with the very stuff that makes us who we are needs to be done carefully. I’m not saying we should stop moving forward, but we need to be super careful and think a lot about where we’re going with genetic technology. We should use the power to edit our genes wisely, not to be perfect, but to fix things. Also, by keeping in mind how diverse and special humanity is.

Garland-Thomson, S. S., Rosemarie. (n.d.). The Dark Side of CRISPR. Scientific American. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-dark-side-of-crispr/#:~:text=Genome%20

Medline Plus. (2020, September 17). What Are the Ethical Issues Surrounding Gene Therapy? Medline Plus; National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/therapy/ethics/

‌World Health Organization. (2021, July 12). WHO issues new recommendations on human genome editing for the advancement of public health. Www.who.int; World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news/item/12-07-2021-who-issues-new-recommendations-on-human-genome-editing-for-the-advancement-of-public-health

‌National Human Genome Research Institute. (2017, August 3). ​What are the Ethical Concerns of Genome editing? National Human Genome Research Institute; National Institutes of Health. https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/policy-issues/Genome-Editing/ethical-concerns

Shozi, B. (2021). Does human germline genome editing violate human dignity? An African perspective. Journal of Law and the Biosciences. https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsab002

‌Yin, K., Gao, C., & Qiu, J.-L. (2017). Progress and prospects in plant genome editing. Nature Plants, 3(8). https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2017.107