Policy ForumGenetics

Ethical Considerations in Synthesizing a Minimal Genome

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Science  10 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5447, pp. 2087-2090
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5447.2087

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Researchers are attempting to model and eventually to create "minimal organisms," organisms with the smallest set of genes that allow for survival and reproduction. Although the ability to create such an organism is beyond current technology, the work of Hutchison et al. , reported in this issue, represents an important step in the path toward the creation of such an organism. Here we identify ethical, social, and religious issues raised by this research. Issues discussed include the potential abuse of the technology (biological weapons, environmental problems), as well as the challenge it poses to our conception of the meaning of life.

  • Robert Aronowitz, Charles Bosk, A. L. Caplan, M. K. Cho, Mary Lynn Dell, M. Susan Lindee, D. Magnus, D. McGee, Glenn McGee, Jon F. Merz, Michael Orsi, Claire Pouncey, Pamela Sankar, Gerald I. Wolpe, and Paul R. Wolpe.