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Animal products used in or on humans have been an invaluable part of medical practice for almost a century. Examples include animal insulins to treat diabetes and pig heart valves transplanted into humans.
A related medical breakthrough was just published on Dec. 5 in the journal “Nature”: Genetically modified pig hearts transplanted into baboons can function long-term, a major step towards the clinical use of pig donor hearts in human patients.
Bioethicists - Grounds - Mixing - Species - Boundaries
But suppose bioethicists objected, on the grounds that such mixing of species crossed ethical boundaries. The result would be untold human misery and mortality.
That thought occurred to me last week when bioethicists and some scientists became completely unhinged over unverified claims from a Chinese scientist that he has used gene-editing techniques to modify human embryos.
Professor - Jiankui - Experiment - HIV - Virus
Professor He Jiankui said that one experiment was performed to make them resistant to the HIV virus (the father is HIV-positive) and resulted in twin girls, and another has resulted in a “potential pregnancy.”
The sisters who underwent this “germline gene therapy” via modification of early-stage embryos before they were implanted into the mother’s uterus, are reportedly healthy. But the claims spurred a furor, with critics condemning the procedure as dangerous and irresponsible, and “rogue human experimentation.”
Breaths - Context - Landscape
Let’s all take a few deep breaths and consider the broader context, including the regulatory landscape.
“Human gene therapy” has been one of the goals of biotechnology since the advent of molecular techniques for genetic modification in the 1970s. There are two distinct conceptual approaches, presenting different kinds of benefits, risks and controversies.
Body - Patient - Patient - Cells - Virus
It can be performed outside the body of the patient, such as by obtaining the patient’s cells, modifying and then returning them, or by injecting a customized virus or some other substance that migrates to a site(s) in the body and modifies the function of a malfunctioning organ.
Somatic cell gene therapy...
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If the Government could just stop...