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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

ISSN Print: 2151-805X
ISSN Online: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2015013732
pages 323-338

The Ethics of Gene Editing Technologies in Human Stem Cells

Michael W. Nestor
The Hussman Institute for Autism, Baltimore, MD 21201
Elena Artimovich
The Hussman Institute for Autism, Baltimore, MD 21201
Richard L. Wilson
Philosophy Department/Engineering Management, University of Maryland at Baltimore; County, Baltimore, MD 21250

ABSTRACT

The advent of clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) technology and the maturation human stem technology now provide a powerful toolkit for personalized regenerative medicine. The correction of genetic aberrations within patient stem cells through the use CRISPR allows researchers to easily and precisely change the DNA sequence at specific areas on the chromosome in stem cells and in vivo models with minimal off target effects. CRISPR could make gene correction therapies more widely available and may provide treatments for a range of simple and complex genetic diseases.
On the surface, the advent and use of gene correction/editing technologies is a powerful tool to reduce human suffering through the eradicating complex disease with a genetic etiology. In this paper, we critically analyze "the gene correction as therapy for complex diseases" hypothesis. We approach this analysis from an ethical perspective by developing an anticipatory ethical analysis of potential issues related to the intersection between gene editing technology and human stem cell research. Particular attention is paid to the concept that gene editing/correction strategies may reduce human genetic diversity in the process of alleviating human suffering.