1 answer

Will genetic modifications be considered ethical when I graduate?

Asked Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

I hope to be a human medical geneticist, and help treat or prevent genetic disorders, but many people view it unethical. #genetics

1 answer

John’s Answer


Hi Phoebe, while the field of embryonic gene therapy and gene correction is likely to still be a very contentious field, approaches for gene correction in children and adults have vastly grown over the last thirty years and are becoming more and more popular. The ability to study and implement the findings to help patients is a very exciting field and it's popularity will likely continue to grow. Currently many human trials are underway in a number of different research fields, including gene mutations related to errors in cell metabolism, vision, and the blood system, as well as new approaches to create patient specific cancer treatments, just to name a few. The continued success and improvement in safety have dramatically increased the interest in gene therapy approaches to correct or replace mutated genes. One of the most popular approaches is to use the natural ability of viruses to deliver genetic material to instead deliver the correction for the mutated gene. By removing the elements of the virus that would otherwise cause disease we can use them to treat patients.

One place to look to learn more about the research projects taking place to optimize treatments before human trials, as well as ongoing human trials is "The American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy" which holds yearly conferences on gene therapy studies. They publish the research abstracts online which could give you a better idea of the breadth of ongoing studies. I'd be happy to answer to the best of my ability any specific questions you may have. I added some links to sites with more general information on gene therapy, as well as the most recent gene therapy conference program, as well as a paper that reviews some of the history of gene therapy (although it is dense) figure 1 and table 1 provide some information on human gene therapy innovations.

John recommends the following next steps:

  • https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm589197.htm
  • http://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/4399
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504480/
Thank you so much! This was so helpful!