The United Kingdom was the first country to pass a law authorizing the cloning of human embryos in 1996, while prohibiting cloning for reproductive purposes (Cohen). The permission to clone embryos, according to proponents of the new modality of genetic manipulation, would target the cure of serious degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and the regeneration and replacement of diseased cells. Since the first successful clone of an adult mammal, the Dolly sheep in 1997 (Cohen), until the creation of the first edited baby, feelings of euphoria mixed with worry and even fury have aroused.
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Indeed, the advancement of recent human reproduction techniques as well as discoveries of the new frontiers of genetics require much more than a purely scientific approach. The employment of these new mechanisms leads to questions of diverse values and cultural, ethical, religious and scientific dogmas.
The advancement of science in the field of DNA has greatly evolved and new discoveries have brought amazement and more concerns. The implement of the genetic-editing technique known as CRISPR, which was introduced to the world in 2012 (Shwartz) – a simple, yet powerful tool for editing genomes. CRISPR allows scientists to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function, delete and repair any mutated sequence of DNA in any gene. It has many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops (Vidyasagar). The implementation of CRISPR has brought hopes of a future free of many devastating diseases. Last month, however, a profound leap of science happened when a Chinese scientist shocked the world reporting that he’d created the world’s first babies genetically edited with CRISPR: a set of twin girls, with a third potential CRISPR baby on the way (Regalado). Alongside the euphoria, religious and more conservative people were concerned that science is creating persons without a soul and they are playing God and disrespecting human dignity. Even many scientists were astounded to hear of the claim and strongly condemned it. The concern about the rapid use of gene editing without further investigation led many scientists to denounce the Chinese report as an unethical human experimentation.
The scientific community has ethical concerns regarding the new technology mostly because changing the genes in an embryo means changing genes in every cell. If the method succeeds, the baby will have alterations that will be inherited by all of the child’s progeny and that could eventually affect the entire gene pool. Moreover, scientists agree that it is a serious undertaking that must be done with great deliberation and only to treat a serious disease for which there are no other options ” if it is to be done at all.
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