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When is it Safe to Edit the Human Germline

Baxter, Janella (2021) When is it Safe to Edit the Human Germline. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In the fall of 2018 Jiankui He shocked the international community with the following announcement: two female babies, “Lulu” and “Nana,” whose germlines had been modified by the cutting edge, yet profoundly unsafe CRISPR-Cas9 technology had been born. This event galvanized policy makers and scientists to advocate for more explicit and firm regulation of human germline gene editing (GGE). Recent policy proposals attempt to integrate safety considerations and public input to identify specific types of diseases that may be safe targets for human GGE (Sarkar forthcoming; Guttinger 2019; Lander et al. 2019). This paper argues these policy proposals are inadequate in different ways. While Sarkar (forthcoming) intends to incorporate input from the disability community for the purpose of deciding the value of human GGE, I argue that his strategy for doing so is inadequate. I’ll argue that an iterative, deliberative process is a more appropriate framework for allowing the disability community to inform policy on human GGE. Further policy proposals have been framed in terms of monogenetic or single-gene diseases (Guttinger 2019; Lander et al. 2019). I argue that this way of conceptualizing disease is not what matters for deciding which disorders are viable candidates for human GGE. Instead, what matters is that (1) the disease in question must have (among its set of causes) genes that have a high degree of causal control with respect to the disease and (2) alternative nucleic acid sequences variants that are likely to produce traits deemed desirable must be identified. Previous policy proposals leave (2) unspecified. What conditions must be met for satisfying condition (2) should not be left to individual scientists to decide for themselves. The present proposal offers some guidance on this issue.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Baxter, Janellabaxterj@wustl.edu
Keywords: Science policy, human germline gene editing, disability
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Science and Policy
General Issues > Technology
Depositing User: Ms. Janella Baxter
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2021 19:21
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2021 19:21
Item ID: 19194
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Science and Policy
General Issues > Technology
Date: 2021
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19194

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