How to Ethically Modify the DNA of Humans

DNA, image: Mirny et al/MIT
DNA, image: Mirny et al/MIT
For the last three days, some of the world’s leading geneticists and bioethicists have more or less locked themselves in a room in Washington DC with the express purpose of determining whether humans should use genome editing tools on themselves. Thursday, they released a statement that could help guide the genetically modified future of our species.

By Jason Koebler|MOTHERBOARD

There is widespread interest in using CRISPR, which allows the targeted editing of specific genes, to potentially end genetic disease in humans. There’s also interest among transhumanists and others interested in improving the genetic makeup of the human race to use the technology to make us live longer, age slower, and otherwise enhance the experience of being a human.

The statement, signed by officials from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and top researchers from the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States, and released by the National Academy of Science is the clearest ethical statement yet made on the subject. That doesn’t mean we’ve got any more statutory or regulatory clarity on the issue of modifying human DNA using tools such as CRISPR, which allow targeted edits to certain genes.