1. Paris conferences investigate gene editing technology and research ethics
Gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) have immense potential for treating diseases. But they also present ethical concerns, such as modifying the germline and the consequences of altering the genetic heritage of future generations.
Two conferences held in Paris to discuss the ethical issues surrounding human gene-editing research were attended by the world’s leading figures in stem cell research.
Participants at the first meeting included the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the Académie Nationale de Médecine. The second meeting the next day included European Commission representation and prominent scientists, philosophers, ethicists and lawyers from Europe, the US, Canada, China, Singapore and Malaysia.
Three panels of speakers addressed the principles underlying governance, international governance perspectives, and potential applications for germline editing. The meeting wrapped up with a moderated discussion among all of the attendees.
Lawyer, Caroline Simons reported on the proceedings in the stem cell lab blog of Paul Knoepfler, Associate Professor at UC Davis School of Medicine in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy. Ms. Simons made a summary of the top takeaways of the meeting.
1. Germline gene editing technologies are not ready for clinical application in humans.
2. No country has regulated specifically for these technologies, but some consider that their regulations would encompass, or at least not prohibit, somatic gene editing.
3. Most countries prohibit germline gene editing.
4. There is no support for the clinical application of germline gene editing, but there is consensus that basic research should continue.
5. There is consensus that research and, when safety and efficacy concerns are satisfied, that clinical trials of somatic gene editing should continue.
6. There is no common understanding of ‘enhancement’ and no consensus that editing to achieve it should be permitted, even in somatic cells.
7. The UK is the only country to permit mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT), which will result in germline alteration. Neither the US nor China consider it prudent to approve MRT technology at this time.
8. There is no consensus on the status of the human embryo (or even on what is an embryo), no consensus that embryos may be created for research or that they ought to be available for research beyond the fourteenth day.
9. The scientific evidence presented in the session which considered potential applications for germline editing did not demonstrate any ‘high unmet medical need’ for germline editing at this time. In fact, Dr. Clevers couldn’t think of any situation where using CRISPR/Cas9 on an embryo would be feasible.
10. There is consensus that public discussion of gene editing technology is urgently needed and that ‘broad, informed consent’ from the public is necessary before any clinical application of gene editing in humans.
2. Psychiatrist drops truth bomb about transgendered people
The entire notion of gender is being questioned and it is now “bigoted” to believe we live in a “gender-binary” world. The idea that humans come in only two flavours: male and female, is seen as outdated, old-fashioned, antiquated and just plain mean. Now we must accept “gender fluidity” and children as young as four are being encouraged to choose their gender identity, as if it were not a biological given.
Dr. Paul R. McHugh, Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and former psychiatrist in chief who studied transgendered people for 40 years, said it is a scientific fact that “transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All such people, he explained in an article for The Witherspoon Institute, “become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they identify.”
Dr. McHugh, who was at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 26 years, the medical institute that initially pioneered sex change surgery and later ceased the practice, stressed that the cultural meme, or idea that “one’s sex is fluid and a matter of choice” is extremely damaging, especially to young people. He said that those who wish to change their gender suffer from a psychiatric condition, not an accident of birth.
“Gender dysphoria, the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex, belongs to the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder,” said McHugh. “Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity fearing anorexic patients with liposuction,” he said.
Perhaps the most tragic part of this new trend is the consequences. After the immense pain and hardship of transitioning, a high percentage of transgendered individuals eventually take their own lives. When “the tumult and shouting dies,” McHugh continued, “it proves not easy, nor wise to live in a counterfeit sexual garb. The most thorough follow-up of sex reassigned people, extending over 30 years, and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered, documents their lifelong mental unrest.”
“Ten to 15 years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to 20 times that of comparable peers,” said McHugh.
Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of Doctors for Life International