After talking to a range of working scientists and researchers, it is relatively easy to come up with a short list of the hot button topics in genetics and their likely progress over, say, the next 10 years. The consensus about what can and cannot (and may never be) done is not complete, but it is impressive. There is more than enough on the agenda to keep everyone busy without worrying about designer babies - or Frankenstein's monsters either.
The list goes like this: pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; germ-line therapy and gene therapy, which together comprise what most people think of as 'genetic engineering'; cloning; stem-cell research; ageing; and the impenetrably named pharmacogenetics, which could turn out to be the most useful of all.
[via also not found in nature]
The post-human future: an excerpt from Gregory Stock's book, Redefining Humans, on the manipulation of the human genome. As genetic knowledge and technology improves, this path is inevitable. As soon as we know how to do it, someone will.
At first glance the very notion that we might become more than "human" seems preposterous. After all, we are still biologically identical in almost every respect to our cave-dwelling ancestors. But this lack of change is deceptive. Never before have we had the power to manipulate human genetics to alter our biology in meaningful, predictable ways.
- A longer excerpt of the same chapter from Stock's site.
- Human Germline Engineering: Implications for Science and Society
Environmentalist Biofraud?: on challenges by the Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat to research by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, who warned last year in a Nature article that corn in Oaxaca, Mexico had been contaminated with genetically engineered corn from the U.S.
Let's stipulate that the Council is composed of very distinguished thinkers and researchers. However, examining Kass' roster, it becomes apparent that he has chosen many cronies that share his dour fears about the direction of medical progress.
Bush's new Council on Bioethics is meeting for the first time yesterday and today to start debating whether humans should be cloned for reproductive or theraputic reasons. The chair, Leon Kass, has testified against reproductive cloning to a previous such panel.
A French official is calling for an international court to try bioethics cases as a way of dealing with cloning issues at a global level. [via somewhereIforget]
Along the lines of the biopunk article I linked to yesterday, Charles Yesalis is warning at the Genes in Sport conference that athletes will be using undetectable gene doping in place of drugs as early as the 2008 Olympics. [via jrobb]