Several years ago, scientists discovered a technique known as CRISPR/Cas9, which allowed them to edit DNA more efficiently than ever before.
Since then, CRISPR science has exploded; it’s become one of the most exciting and fast-moving areas of research, transforming everything from medicine to agriculture and energy. In 2017 alone, more than 14,000 CRISPR studies were published.
But there are still major ethical hurdles to grapple with when it comes to gene editing. Many researchers think it would be unsafe to allow a CRISPR-modified embryo to grow into an actual human — at least without much, much more research. “The stakes are enormous,” wrote Stanford’s Hank Greely, who specializes in the ethical and social implications of new biomedical technologies:
You’d have to be criminally reckless, or insane, to try to make a baby this way unless and until we’ve had a decade or more of preliminary research, with human tissues and with non-human animals (including certainly primates and maybe even some of the non-human apes), showing that it is safe. If the moral risk isn’t enough of a deterrent, the potential legal liability should be.