Are Heritable Genetic Diseases a Thing of the Past?

by Sora L. '18
Marlborough Matter(s) is a science newsletter distributed to the Marlborough community detailing the most important science news happening in our world and highlighting the on-campus STEM happenings.

The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine formed a science advisory group, which has just recently lent its long sought-after and controversial support for gene editing of human embryos. This new approval gives scientists the power to use gene-editing technology to prevent the passing down of genetic diseases through generations.
“So-called germ line engineering might allow people to have biological children without fear that they have passed on the genes for diseases like Huntington’s and Tay-Sachs,” reports the New York Times.
Gene editing is completed using a tool called CRISPR-Cas9. This has allowed researchers to edit and insert genetic material very accurately, providing hope for cancer treatments—and now, if used on human embryos, providing hope that the heritability of genetic diseases can be prevented. 

Whether to approve the gene editing of embryos was a long-debated topic. Some scientists fear that this decision now allows gene-editing to be used to heighten human intelligence—and improve the healthy—rather than block genetic diseases and help the sick. 
Although the likelihood of scientists creating genetically designed babies is unlikely (as of now), with every new innovation, it is important to keep in mind the ethics and weigh them against the benefits of the technology.

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