In this video, Tugdual Derville describes the hopes and challenges raised by a new technique: the CRISPR-Cas9 method. Thanks to this technique it is now possible to replace, snip out or insert a gene to a cell’s DNA. It is a rather simple inexpensive genetic manipulation, applicable to all cell types, whether they are vegetable, animal or human. It is a very promising technique for genetic therapy, and could be an extraordinary leap ahead in the history of medicine. These techniques are progressing at a staggering pace.
But as is often the case with important discoveries, future scenarios could hold the best as well as the worst. And thus, we are faced with a red boundary line not to be crossed : this technique could be applied to the human embryo genome and to germ cells.
This rapid genetic progress now opens before us the path of creating « custom-made babies », with real risks of eugenic and scientific abuses.
A Chinese scientific team has already performed this major ethical transgression in their laboratory and a British researcher has also just requested authorization for it.
The modification of a human embryo has implications for our descendants, and thus a large part of Humanity. Therefore this issue concerns all of us and is not only a question reserved for scientists.
We had actively supported the call for a moratorium called for by researchers last April.
Today a UNESCO panel composed of scientists, philosophers, jurists and ministers has also called for a temporary halt to genetic “engineering” on human germ cell lines, recommending a wide-reaching public debate on genetic modification to human DNA.
Tugdual Derville resounds this alert « It is a complete revolution in our bioethical thinking. I call for large spread debates on this subject and will be attentive in the forthcoming months to participate in these major issues.”