STATES CHRONICLE – On May 10, 150 scientists met to discuss the synthetic human genome. The discussion was held privately at the Harvard University, and it focused on the possibility of using chemicals to synthetically fabricate the human genome.
It might one day become a reality to replicate human beings that through cloning, without the need for biological parents.
The mere idea of creating a synthetic human genome stirs both concern and curiosity, so much so that it was decided not to involve the media. The scientists gathered last Tuesday were precisely told to keep the meeting a secret from the press and not post anything on social media platforms during the debate.
However, since the meeting was in fact about creating cells in general, not “creating people,” the information slipped.
This project would be a follow up of the first Human Genome Project.
In the Human Genome Project, scientists made an attempt at reading the DNA sequence – the three billion chemical sequence of the blueprint of life. The synthetic human genome creation would be the next phase, which is to write the DNA sequence.
For the project to unroll, there is a need for the synthetic DNA science in general to advance, but the ethical issues raised are one too many. Would it be ethical to replicate Einstein’s genome? “If so how many Einstein genomes should be made and installed in cells, and who would get to make them?”
This is something the Stanford bioengineer Drew Endy, and the Northwestern University bioethicist Laurie Zoloth openly asked in their essay against the project.
Doctor Endy deliberately refused to attend the meeting because of its closed doors and its ethical concerns not made available to more people.
But George Church of the Harvard Medical School, professor of genetics said the reason they didn’t want to let anyone else on the subject was a scientific paper being published after the meeting had taken place. The ethical perspective has been applied since the inception of the idea, says the professor.
They plan on synthesizing a human genome in a cell in 10 years.
The project is in a very incipient phase and does not have any funding yet. However, the federal government and other foundations and companies will be invited.
Currently, the addition of foreign genes or modification of DNA letters are practices scientists apply to make drugs or crops, but synthesizing a complete gene would open whole new frontiers.
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