As gene editing techniques become more refined, the possibility of editing the human genome is moving from science fiction to reality. Join the conversation about how we should handle this power.
This forum was developed along with the other Building With Biology forums as part of the Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science – Synthetic Biology project led by the Museum of Science, Boston with funding from the National Science Foundation. The forum has three scenarios and is designed to run for a total of two hours.
The first scenario begins by asking participants to imagine that their son has been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and to evaluate whether they would use a gene therapy treatment to treat him if money were not a factor and how they arrived at their decision. Next, participants are asked to determine whether they would use gene therapy on a healthy child to strengthen their muscles. Participants are asked to evaluate what factors would have gone into their decision to pay for the treatment and how it would affect the child socially. Finally, they are asked to imagine how the knowledge that other countries like Japan or Russia use the gene treatment would affect their decision.
The second scenario provides readers with demographic information about sickle-cell disease and asks them whether they would use gene therapy treatment in place of a bone-marrow transplant from a donor if given the option. Participants are then asked to evaluate as a group how access to such treatments should be governed and facilitated on a macrosocial level.
The third scenario asks participants to imagine that they are a carrier of a genetic mutation that could put their children at increased risk of breast cancer and to evaluate whether they would seek to produce a healthy embryo with genetic changes that would be passed on to the child’s offspring later. The participants are then asked to think about the ramifications of deploying gene editing technology to cure all genetic diseases on a large scale, and finally to think about the relationship between gene editing and the notion of humanity itself.