Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Dr James Davies from our MRC Molecular Haematology Unit writes in The Conversation about genome editing, its power for good... and the ethical issues that we are already facing.

We are entering a new era as a species. For the first time, we are not only able to read our genetic code but also edit it. This will revolutionise our ability to treat disease and it will improve the lives of millions if not billions of people. But it means that, if we want to, we can now edit human embryos to “improve” the characteristics of our children. We will be able to create designer babies and these changes will be passed on to their descendants, which will change the human species forever.

It is worth thinking about the scale of what we can now do. The human genome is made up of 3 billion characters, which is about ten times the size of Encyclopaedia Britannica. This contains all the information needed to make a human, and it determines nearly all our characteristics as individuals (not only height, athletic performance and IQ but also our personality and even political views). We completed the first sequence of the human genome around 20 years ago at a cost of US$2.7 billion. We can now sequence a genome for less than the cost of an MRI scan.

Read the full piece here.

Similar stories

Mechanism behind repair of cancer-inducing mutations discovered

New Nature paper uncovers the precise mechanism behind how the BRCA1 protein detects and engages with DNA breaks in the genome, helping to prevent the development of breast and ovarian cancers.

DNA breakthrough could help identify why some people are more affected by Covid-19

Scientists from the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine have developed a method that allows them to see, with far greater accuracy, how DNA forms large scale structures within a cell nucleus.

New clinical trial for patients affected by blood cancer

Radcliffe Department of Medicine's Professor Adam Mead is leading PROMise, a new clinical trial offering a novel treatment option for patients with a type of blood cancer called myelofibrosis.

Immune cells imperfect at distinguishing friend from foe

When it comes to distinguishing a healthy cell from an infected one that needs to be destroyed, the immune system’s killer T cells sometimes make mistakes. This discovery, described today in the journal eLife, upends a long-held belief among scientists that T cells were nearly perfect at discriminating friend from foe. The results may point to new ways to treat autoimmune diseases that cause the immune system to attack the body, or lead to improvements in cutting-edge cancer treatments.

Professor Graham Ogg elected Academy of Medical Sciences Fellow

Fellows are selected for their exceptional contributions to the advancement of medical science through innovative research discoveries and translating scientific developments into benefits for patients and the wider society.