Random thoughts from recent pieces on digital science and human technology, gene modification, nextgen medicine, and ethical questions: Which direction now human-gene?








The Genome (and NextGen Humans)

Now that digital medicine is producing the techniques, the machines, and prices for genome sequencing are falling fast following a Moore’s Law of sequencing cost, what’s next in the world of genetics?

First, a long-standing concern that biology could be taking a turn away from ethics as human genetic engineering proceeds into uncharted territory.

The fearful dystopian Blade Runner visions in science fiction draw closer. The visions of a genetic-enhanced future are mega-hits in the entertainment business,  the sequel to Jurassic Park is in production, the re-engineered creatures are not far away…

That mosquito that sipped dinosaur blood, then got caught up in tree sap that embedded the little beast with the blood of a large beast in an amber tomb, preserved over millions of years, to be rediscovered by modern scientists — and a rich man with dreams of revitalizing life as a theme park and more — they’re back. This time bigger and badder, a REX worse than T REX.

While screenwriters (and Michael Crichton-esque too-close-to-reality-for-comfort ‘fiction’ writers) ply their trade, we are seeing more digital thought being given to the consequences of the next stage that currently in development. The real world of genomics is close to becoming reality — and scientists, doctors, biologists and ethicists, researchers and others wearing many hats are worried.

What is the ‘right’ path to pursue? Is a technological imperative of ‘what can be done, will be done’ driving us?

What direction is the ethical direction as the abilities of the anthropogenic era? As science empowers human capabilities, what should be and will be the impact of human engineering on nature as the god-like creative capabilities of humans extends to the human species itself…

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Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome

A group of leading biologists call for a worldwide moratorium on use of a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited.

The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some physicians may push ahead before its safety can be assessed. They also want the public to understand the ethical issues surrounding the technique, which could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence. The latter is a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.

“You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue,” said David Baltimore, a former president of the California Institute of Technology and a member of the group whose paper on the topic was published in the journal Science.

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April 3, 2015

A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification

Genome engineering technology offers unparalleled potential for modifying human and nonhuman genomes. In humans, it holds the promise of curing genetic disease, while in other organisms it provides methods to reshape the biosphere for the benefit of the environment and human societies. However, with such enormous opportunities come unknown risks to human health and well-being. In January, a group of interested stakeholders met in Napa, California, to discuss the scientific, medical, legal, and ethical implications of these new prospects for genome biology. The goal was to initiate an informed discussion of the uses of genome engineering technology, and to identify those areas where action is essential to prepare for future developments. The meeting identified immediate steps to take toward ensuring that the application of genome engineering technology is performed safely and ethically.

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Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium On Human Genome Edits

A new technology called CRISPR could allow scientists to alter the human genetic code for generations. That’s causing some leading biologists and bioethicists to sound an alarm. They’re calling for a worldwide moratorium on any attempts to alter the code, at least until there’s been time for far more research and discussion.

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Engineering the Perfect Baby

“The fear is that germ-line engineering is a path toward a dystopia of superpeople and designer babies for those who can afford it.”

Really MIT?

Perhaps you’re referring to the work being conducted in China?

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China / Nature

April 22, 2015

Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos

Rumours of germline modification prove true — and look set to reignite an ethical debate

Human embryos are at the centre of a debate over the ethics of gene editing.

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted — rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.

China / NYT

April 23, 2015

The experiment with human embryos was dreaded, yet widely anticipated. Scientists somewhere, researchers said, were trying to edit genes with a technique that would permanently alter the DNA of every cell so any changes would be passed on from generation to generation.

Those concerns drove leading researchers to issue urgent calls in major scientific journals last month to halt such work on human embryos, at least until it could be proved safe and until society decided if it was ethical.

Now, scientists in China report that they tried it.

The experiment failed, in precisely the ways that had been feared.

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What’s Next?

“One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of mind,” runs the wisdom of Clarke, as quoted in The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, ironic in that central to Kubrick’s adaptation of 2001 is the story of a homicidal artificial intelligence let loose on a crew of archetypical American Hero astronauts.

To our science fiction novelists, screenwriters, futurists and visionaries we ask, “What’s next on the horizon?”

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Affordable Genome Engineering is Happening — Now



In passing, consider…

The Eternity Drivehttp://www.digibod.com/archives/4377