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The crossroads of the "clippings" in human genetics: save lives or cross ethical boundaries? – 12.02.2013

What is the difference between taking a drug for the treatment of the disease, repairing damaged tissue, voluntary participation in an experiment in which they will replace DNA from the deficient cells, or will allow (under the promise that it will avoid everything before) modifying the genetic information for some embryos? Are they gray on the same scale? The scientific community says no, that One is first, and another is genetically touching these "first" cells, those deriving from the alliance between ovum and sperm. Because, although the actual effects are unknown, it is known that the changes will be inherited from future generations. And this is a door that nobody wants to open.

In addition to He Jiankui, the reckless Chinese scholar who won this week's world contempt when he announced that – out of all Chinese regulations – he genetically regulated babies, something that, in terms of the main protocols of bioethics, no one does. In other words, to break the embryonic DNA in this particular case so that they can resist the spread of HIV / AIDS. The result of that experiment, He Jiankui assures that twins were born and that another pregnancy is in progress.

Let's clarify the jargon. On the one hand there is (always in an experimental phase) the call genetic edition of somatic cells: remove "problematic" cells from the body, insert or modify deficiency or deficient genetic sequence, and re-inject. This change "dies" with the person, that is, they do not happen to their descendants.

It also exists genetic edition of germ cells (the case of a Chinese scientist), a procedure that, at least in humans, is rejected by the scientific community. There the change is made in the gametes of the gametes or the embryo itself, and is hereditary.

Another: unproven acronyms CRISPR and Cas9 They talk about two tools (they are not the only ones) that scientists make these "pieces" in the DNA chain, both of which touch somatic cells and cells from the nascent.

Fear? That, like Jiangxi, is someone else's news tomorrow outsider do what many call it "Genetic edition of the garage", that is, beyond academic approval. Because with private subsidies it is easy to produce people with green eyes, athletes with maximum performance or people who are less hungry. Opportunities such as ambitions can be limitless.

"Or people of 1.80 meters, if someone decides that this is an" ideal "height for people, is the example of an older researcher at the Conicet-Lloore Institute, Fernando Pitosi, who is also part of the International Society for Research Policy Research Committee stem cells.

Did the spirit of the super-race reappear? One of those who believe is Fabiana Arzuaga, coordinator of the National Advisory Commission on Cellular Therapy and Regenerative Medicine: "The question that has been made to this scientist is for effect out of the goal. You you will touch a gene in the embryo, but you do not know if you are influencing another part of the genome. What if, apart from opposing the diseases, you increased your intelligence? The idea of ​​more favorable groups would create great social differences, more discrimination and segregation"

Chinese scientist He Jiankui (AP).

Chinese scientist He Jiankui (AP).

Claudia Perandones, a geneticist and an interpreter of the National Administration of Laboratories and Health Institutes ANLIS "Dr. Carlos G. Malbran," holds another position. For her, the most prestigious before the advancement of this type believe that everything is marked with a "eugenic" side, that is, linking the biological heritage with an interest in the perfection of the human race.

The parandons agree that "what the Chinese scientist has done is disruptive and therefore must be evaluated, sanctioned and controlled." In addition, he said, "he has not published his research in any scientific journal and it is also unclear what kind of agreement he has from his parents … the consequences can be very serious."

A laboratory where genetic embryos would be genetically modified in China (AP).

A laboratory where genetic embryos would be genetically modified in China (AP).

But it was realistic: "We will not be able to return: the coming tool is this one. You must know how to use it in an orderly and appropriate way. The logical thing in the future will be use it when you have no other treatment. He Jiankui had other options to avoid HIV. "

It's not a simple subject. This Tuesday, the Secretariats of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, Agroindustry and Health, in addition to INTA, Conicet and ANLIS, will Days of "Genetic Editing", where different experts will focus on the premise "everything you wanted to know about editing a gene, but you're not encouraged to ask"

Speaking of "cheerfulness", a source related to the event acknowledged that it was not easy to decide whether or not to include the topic of the germ-release in the program.

The subject is problematic. According to Perandones, "just like in vitro fertilization, when a new model emerges, all panic. Then, by institutionalizing an ethical, legal and legal framework, it is possible to improve the quality of life of individuals."

But for the Pitossi dangers of "Directional evolution"They are inconceivable:" We always want to control everything, but in this case it will involve directing the evolution of species that have so far been affected by forces that we do not control. If it is common to determine technologically optimal human qualities, beyond the illness, we will end up taking the richest we have from the game of evolution: diversity"

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