Monday, July 06, 2015

breeding out disease?

cbsnews |  There are few fields of medicine that are having a bigger impact on how we treat disease than genetics. As we reported in October, the science of genetics has gotten so sophisticated so quickly that it can be used to not only treat serious diseases but prevent thousands of them well before pregnancy even begins. Diseases that have stalked families for generations -- like breast cancer -- are being literally stopped in their tracks. Scientists can do that by creating and testing embryos in a lab, then implanting into a mother's womb only the ones which appear healthy. While the whole field is loaded with controversy, those who are worried about passing on defective and potentially dangerous genes see the opportunity to breed out disease.

But with the promise of this technology also comes the fear that some parents would want to use it to select genetic traits in their children that have nothing to do with disease - a debate Lee Silver himself stoked when he wrote the patent for GenePeeks.

Norah O'Donnell: We read your patent and it says your technology could be used to assess whether a child could have other traits, like eye color, hair color, social intelligence, even whether a child will have a widow's peak? If your company is so focused on preventing disease, why would you include those traits?

Lee Silver: The purpose of the list of traits is simply to demonstrate that our technology can be used to study anything that's genetically influenced. That doesn't mean we're going to actually do that.
Norah O'Donnell: OK. But you're running a company? That could be big business?

Lee Silver: We are the ones who invented this technology and we're going to use it to study pediatric disease. At the moment, we will make sure the technology is used only for that purpose.
And at the moment, you'll have to take his word for it because there are no real rules in this country limiting what this kind of technology can be used to screen for, leaving those decisions up to scientists like Lee Silver and Mark Hughes.

Norah O'Donnell: So we should trust you to set the boundaries?

Dr. Mark Hughes: If I'm setting a boundary saying, "I'm not willing to do that," that's no different from any other field of medicine. So sure.

Norah O'Donnell: But do you wrestle with this at all? I mean, who is the gatekeeper?

Dr. Mark Hughes: That's the question. Should it be some group sitting around a mahogany table or should it be all left up to the patient? If it would get to the point where it was like cosmetic surgery, that would be downright awful. But I'd think those are all straw men arguments. And people asked me these very questions that you're asking me right now, 25 years ago. And it hasn't happened.


BigDonOne said...

"br**ding out disease?"
We thought "br**ding" one of those naughty words that can't be used on Subrealism because it causes a post to get trashed in the 'BD filter'...?? --- As in '00W Br**ding'.........