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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Gene editing has captivated scientists and medical providers with tantalizing visions of wiping out debilitating inherited diseases. Could conditions like Huntington’s disease, for example, be cured by using a tool that acts as a "molecular scissors" to remove and replace disease-causing DNA? Or, would gene editing tempt some to engineer designer babies with genes encoded for superior intelligence, beauty or athletic abilities?Gene editing technology is rapidly advancing, putting tools at the forefront of medical research. One of the best known gene editing tools is CRISPR-Cas9, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein. CRISPR-Cas9 has the potential to make gene editing faster, cheaper and more accurate, which could speed basic research studies and findings.
Although Mayo Clinic does not use gene editing as part of any treatment, it is studying the implications. Megan Allyse, Ph.D., a bioethicist who works with the Bioethics Program of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, warns that, along with improvements in understanding of the genome, gene editing also poses ethical concerns.
“It’s important to have public conversations to understand the limitations of this new technology. What are best practices (for gene editing)? What are the implications? What are the misuses of technologies like this? How can we harness it to benefit patients? How do we prevent harming populations or increasing health disparities or side effects that are not acceptable?” asks Dr. Allyse.
Dr. Allyse shares four key factors on why gene editing is still years away from medical practice:
Aside from gene editing, researchers and physician-scientists at Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine continue to seek ways to apply the latest genomic, molecular and clinical science to personalized care for every individual, so patients receive the exact care they need —when they need it —and to address unmet needs of the patient.
To schedule an interview with Dr. Allyse, contact
Susan Buckles, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Allyse also can discuss these topics in bioethics:
About Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine
Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine discovers, translates and applies new findings in genomic research into individualized medicine products and services for patients everywhere. For more information, visit mayoresearch.mayo.edu/center-for-individualized-medicine.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, comprehensive care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.
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