Germ-line gene modification and disease prevention: some medical and ethical perspectives

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  22 Oct 1993:
Vol. 262, Issue 5133, pp. 533-538
DOI: 10.1126/science.8211180


There has been considerable debate about the ethics of human germ-line gene modification. As a result of recent advances in the micromanipulation of embryos and the laboratory development of transgenic mice, a lively discussion has begun concerning both the technical feasibility and the ethical acceptability of human germ-line modification for the prevention of serious disease. This article summarizes some of the recent research on germ-line gene modification in animal models. Certain monogenic deficiency diseases that ultimately might be candidates for correction by germ-line intervention are identified. Several of the most frequently considered ethical issues relative to human germ-line gene modification are considered in the context of professional ethics, parental responsibility, and public policy. Finally, it is suggested that there is merit in continuing the discussion about human germ-line intervention, so that this technique can be carefully compared with alternative strategies for preventing genetic disease.