An alarming new report indicates that we may be close to creating a synthetic human genome.
Last month, 150 scientists reportedly assembled at Harvard for an off-the-record discussion on creating a synthetic genome of a human being, moving from reading genetic material to writing it. Now, a group of scientists and entrepreneurs have announced the start of a 10-year project that would seek to actually create a synthetic human genome.
Basically, scientists are hoping to revolutionize the field of biotechnology, but many are concerned about the ethics of what they’re setting out to do, according to a Phys.org report.
The paper, published in the journal Science, describes how scientists would try to grow human organs for transplants and speed up vaccine development, potentially saving many lives.
But there’s a lot of concern that it may one day be used to create human beings who have no biological parents, for example. And many have protested the fact that the meeting was held in such secrecy.
The project follows from the Human Genome Project in 2003, when scientists fully sequenced a human genome. Now, the new projecct will be more ambitious and focus ont he practical applications from the Human Genome Project.
The project hopes to raise $100 million this year from a number of different sources.
“The perspectives of others including self-identified theologians, philosophers, and ethicists from a variety of traditions should be sought out from the very beginning,” scientists Drew Endy wrote in an essay published in Cosmos protesting the secret meeting. “Critical voices representing civil society, who have long been sceptical of synthetic biology’s claims, should also be included. The creation of new human life is one of the last human-associated processes that has not yet been industrialised or fully commodified. It remains an act of faith, joy, and hope. Discussions to synthesise, for the first time, a human genome should not occur in closed rooms.”
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