A technique that was a dream of Adolf Hitler more than 70 years ago almost became a reality through a breakthrough technique invented in 2012. This method of gene editing involves making changes to the DNA which then allows characteristics of this altered gene to pass on to future generations, as invented by biologists Jennifer A. Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umea University, Sweden, as reported in New York Times.
The technique has its benefit of weeding out genetic diseases that are passed on from generations but also the disadvantage of being abused where biologist can enhance beauty, height or other attributes for the purpose of commercialization. Such abuses of the human gene can just boggle our imaginations and violate the ethics of our humanity.
Now a group of biologists, including the creators of the technique have submitted a paper published in the Journal Science calling for the halt and ban of the technique from being abused due to ethical concern.
According to David Baltimore, former President of Caltech and a member of the group, they have serious concern for the future of this new scientific breakthrough in genetic manipulation may be utilized.
“You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue,”
Ethicists for decades, have been concerned about the dangers of altering the human germline — meaning to make changes to human sperm, eggs or embryos that will last through the life of the individual and be passed on to future generations. Until now, these worries have been theoretical. But a technique invented in 2012 makes it possible to edit the genome precisely and with much greater ease. The technique has already been used to edit the genomes of mice, rats and monkeys, and few doubt that it would work the same way in people.
The technique holds the power to repair or enhance any human gene.
“It raises the most fundamental of issues about how we are going to view our humanity in the future and whether we are going to take the dramatic step of modifying our own germline and in a sense take control of our genetic destiny, which raises enormous peril for humanity,” said George Q. Daley, a stem cell expert at Boston Children’s Hospital and a member of the group.
The authors of the group concurred that within the United States, the government can ban any further abuses of the human genome through regulations but not on unscrupulous foreign government. Perhaps a future rogue leader can abuse it just like what Adolf Hitler had sought to achieve during the second world war to create a super human race to dominate the world.