Artificial Human DNA Within 5 Years
Last week, we wrote about the GP-Write meeting, where around 250 researchers met in New York City to discuss applications and ethics that are surrounding the project. After a controversial first meeting in 2016, they’ve published an article and a white paper explaining the proposal in detail, and now it seems like scientists are more open to the project.
One of the scientists leading the project, Jef Boeke recently announced that GP-Write will be able to create artificial human DNA within 5 years.
Geneticists argue that Dr. Boeke’s timeline is way too ambitious; however, most agree that we will be able to create an artificial organism within the next decade. The benefits being eliminating the donor waiting lists, by 3D printing organs for transplant; or combat a virus outbreak more effectively by engineering an immune cell to combat the virus. It could ultimately make human cells resistant to infection, and maybe even cancer, which may lead to new drugs, novel gene therapy and advanced stem cell therapy.
So what is really the problem here? Ethics.
What if prospective parents could choose certain traits like sex, appearance, skin colour and height for their babies? In other words, the controversial ‘Designer Baby’.
Also, this might sound absurd, but what about the possibilities of patenting genes?
As Big Think recently wrote: income inequality wouldn’t hold a candle to biologically designed inequality, now would it?
The list of concerns goes on with everything from scientists’ accidentally creating a new genetic disease, to artificially designed cells that could get out and wreak havoc in the environment, but Dr. Boeke is no longer shying away from public concerns, he invites comment.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Learn more about GP-Write
Columbia University bioengineer Harris Wang explains the goals of the Human Genome Project – Write (HGP-write), an international initiative to develop new technologies for synthesizing very large genomes from scratch.
Just as the original Human Genome Project (HGP-read) sparked a revolution in science and medicine, Dr. Wang says that HGP-write holds the potential to deliver new technologies that dramatically improve our understanding of how genomes actually work. These tools could help to address some of society’s major challenges, including energy sustainability, climate change, and the need for more effective ways of fighting disease. HGP-write is also promoting interdisciplinary dialogue concerning the ethical, legal, and social issues raised by genome engineering technology