Gene editing has great potential but also fraught with peril

The extraordinary capabilities of gene therapy technology are well presented in the article “Second man has gene editing in California as therapy raises no safety flags so far on first one” in the Feb. 8 edition.

The benefits of such a therapy have undoubtable prospects for improving the future of many suffering from genetic diseases. However, the ethical implications of editing the human genome are vast. Nevertheless, I want to disclose this new technology could be used inappropriately.

A long-lived problem facing human gene editing is using it to “improve” an individual. I use the word in quotations to emphasize what qualifies as improvements vary greatly from one person to the next. My education as a current undergraduate studying molecular genetics has given me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge of the field and delve into various issues that our society faces. Gene editing provides the ability to add or remove any gene from a human genome. Tampering with the future of your children by being able to decide what they look like, or physically altering your body to increase your sports performance, are possible using this technology. If gene editing is not stringently controlled in its applications, the potential for designer babies and gene doping in sports could become a terrifying reality that nobody is ready for.

To emphasize my final thoughts, gene editing has shown promise in countless research experiments using animal models and has seen success in humans in a few notable moments. Gene editing will hopefully continue to develop in the coming years to cure genetic diseases — but the technology also opens doors that should probably stay shut.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.