Designing Life: The Genomic Revolution

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Next up is Julian Savulescu of Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics talking about the advancements of gene editing and why we should embrace this technology.

We see three important developments right now pointing to a genetic revolution:

• Declining cost of genome sequencing

• Stem cell therapy is progressing

• Gene editing (in 2014 it was used for the first time in human embryos)

People who are against gene editing need to realize that gene mutations happen all the time. They can be caused by:

• Smoking

• Delaying having a child

• Viruses etc.

We could potentially cure diseases with gene editing. And it is a much cheaper and a more effective way than testing high numbers of humans or embryos to develop therapies and treat diseases.

Where to draw the line?

While this is a good purpose, Saculescu does not think we should stop there. Diseases are mostly just "a version of normality". It is contingent where we draw the line: Today, the two percent that have the strongest deviances and disadvantages are considered sick, the rest qualifies as normal and healthy.

There are already experiments using gene editing with mice that made them able to run longer distances or also doubled their lifespans. The same could be achieved with humans.

"Could we breed humans that are better able to meet the challenges of today?"

Climate change and terrorism are not natural disasters, but caused by human choices. It has been proven that human behavior can be changed by the intake of drugs like prozac or oxytocin. It could also be changed by gene editing.

"We have the potential to re-engineer humanity", Savulescu concludes.

Mentioned in this live blog

Julian Savulescu
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

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