Inside the circle of trust

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Science  02 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6452, pp. 430-437
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6452.430

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  • Finding Ethical Applications for Human Gene Editing: Alzheimer’s Disease?

    J Cohen described the raucous public debate concerning the so-called CRISPR babies made by He (1). Editing the gene encoding CCR5 produced an IVF baby presumably immune to AIDS. David Baltimore was said to have “thundered” at He about a failure of self-regulation and lack of transparency. Stephen Quake was ensnared as duplicitous in his simultaneous acclaim and condemnation of He. And the steady voice of Jennifer Doudna offered the suggestion that germline editing was inevitable and the question is “How do we control, or even can we control it in any reasonable sense of that word?”

    Inevitability brings this question: if the procedure becomes perfectly safe should we tamper with the germ line at all, and if so, who are the candidates for gene editing? The human population is replete with rare monogenic deleterious mutations and few if any of them are candidates for gene editing. They are preferably handled by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Where gene editing could become suited for clinical application is to insert rare beneficial mutations in the context of an imminent threat from a condition that can be prevented by the beneficial mutation.

    While CCR5 was not a good fit for this criterion, it is now timely to discuss those conditions appropriate for this revolutionary technology. The field should consider dispassionate thought experiments around the application of gene editing to Alzheimer’s disease. Because the vast majority of Alzheimer’s disease pat...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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