It is well known that there are different options available to couples who are at risk of transmitting a genetic disease to their children to try to avoid it. A recent article on this topic assesses the possibility of using genome editing for this purpose (European Journal of Human Genetics, August 9, 2020). Thus far, the most commonly used technique is the Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (with no minor ethical problems), practiced in the context of in vitro fertilization to select healthy embryos for transfer. This avoids having sick children. However, it undoubtedly has the ethical difficulty that ‘sick’ embryos must be destroyed and healthy embryos allowed to live without question a eugenic and consequently, wrongful practice from an ethical point of view.
Supposedly “sick” embryos are being destroyed, and healthy embryos are being chosen to live.
Another possibility to avoid transmission is so-called “third-party reproduction,” which consists of using healthy gametes from a donor (frequently anonymous) to replace those of the couple’s sick individual. However, this technique is only legal in the United Kingdom, Holland, and Spain.
Modifying diseased gametes using genome editing reproductive option
A third possibility is to genetically modify the diseased gametes, using genome editing and CRISPR/Cas9 to eliminate the genetic defect in question from the affected gamete. This probability is the one discussed in the paper we are examining (see more HERE). In this respect, we have published an article entitled Open ethical debate: Are gene-editing techniques ethical in reproductive medicine? you can read HERE.
Assisted reproduction and genome editing
According to the article, there do not appear to be any decisive arguments for or against the use of assisted reproduction and genome editing g in these cases, as a reproductive option, as there is little experience to evaluate this method definitively. Nevertheless, the author maintains that the difficulty for all those who need it may be equality of access to the technique. Other ethical difficulties should be resolved before genome editing can be considered a new reproductive option.
Ethical assessment of genome editing reproductive option
In our opinion, the already evident ethical difficulties that assisted reproduction presents, added to those of genome editing, make the use of this technique ethically unacceptable for use in human medicine.