Robert Klitzman, director of the M.S. in Bioethics program and clinical psychiatry professor at Columbia University, recently wrote an article for CNN about gene editing and its potential ramifications.
Gene editing allows geneticists to “clip out bad genes and insert new ones,” which could help to treat and eliminate diseases. There are further possibilities, he says, which are straight out of the film Gattaca:
In the future, parents may want to give their children certain genes for blond hair and blue eyes, added height or certain kinds of athletic prowess. We may also eventually find genes that are strongly associated with perfect pitch, intelligence or homosexuality.
On the other hand, there are risks:
Certain genes may increase your odds of getting one disease but protect you against other ailments -- if we impair such a gene, you may avoid the first disease but get another. For example, in mice, researchers blocked a gene that caused cancer, but the mice ended up aging prematurely.
Some believe that the technology should be permanently banned from being used in humans, but for now, several countries have agreed to limit their use of the technology. Tampering with nature always has perils, Klitzman says, but future applications could be useful.