Scientists to Waltz in the Ethical Line, Plans to Create Synthetic Human Genome
Many Scientists were alarmed in the closed-door, invitation-only meeting of nearly 150 researchers, business leaders and lawyers in the Harvard University last week. The primary goal of the meeting is to discuss the possibility to construct an entire human genome from scratch.
Human genome is the heritable genetic material that is transferred from parent s to children.
The secret meeting itself gathered few criticisms because organizers asked each participant to avoid posting the minutes of meeting in the social media and media was not allowed in the room. But the main goal of "to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of 10 years" is what made life scientist worried on their toes.
In a paper, notable scientists Drew Endy and Northwestern University bioethicist Laurie Zoloth elaborated on the problems of the secret meeting and the possible ethical dilemma of synthesizing the entire human genome.
"While we strongly agree that sustained improvements in DNA construction tools are essential for advancing basic biological science and improving public health we are skeptical that synthesizing a human genome is an appropriate demand driver," Endy and Zoloth wrote.
According to a report from Tech Times, the cost of producing each block of genetic code cost roughly $4 in 2003, but just 13 years later, it dramatically decreases to three cents per letter, which means building a human genome with three billion base pairs now costs only $90 million from the astonishing $12 billion in 2014.
If the decrease rate continues, the cost of constructing a synthetic human genome would reach as little as $100.
Even with the availability of modern technologies and surprisingly cheap price, synthesizing human genome will be presented with lots of ethical dilemma.
Many scientists against the production of human genome from scratch argue that the possibility of sequencing and producing genomes of the world's best and brightest people. This may result in series of ethical questions such as how many copies of the same sequence should be produced, and who would be able to obtain them?
Life science researchers strongly believe that all discussions regarding the production of human genome should be open to public and should not occur in closed rooms.
"The creation of new human life is one of the last human-associated processes that have not yet been industrialized or fully commoditized. It remains an act of faith, joy, and hope," Endy and Zoloth concluded.