Ting Wu helping to bridge religion and gene-editing
Ting Wu, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School studies the behavior and positioning of chromosomes to help the public understand genetics. She was an advisor for the television show Grey's Anatomy, has visited schools, and has briefed congressional aides.
Wu believes, in a time of increasingly available genetic tests, people should understand what scientific advances mean to them. There is a challenge to give knowledge to those communities who view science with suspicion. The reason for this attitude, she surmised, was that they were mistreated or underserved in the past. She believes the basic knowledge of genetics must surpass the walls of special summits and academic journals. Therefore, Wu is reaching out to religious leaders.
At a conference in the fall where she gathered scientists, community members, genetic counselors and pastors, she asked “Is it possible, because you’re so organized and there’s so much trust between you and your congregations, that faith leaders can help us?”
There is good reason for Wu to be proactive in her efforts. Bioethicists and religious leaders have long debated the morality behind genome editing, such as the editing of embryo genomes. It’s a revolution which is being led by people like famous geneticist George Church, Wu’s husband and colleague at Harvard Medical School.
When it comes to religious communities, the comfort level varies when it comes to the practicality of genome editing. The procedures used for the curing of diseases are usually in tandem with a few religious tenets. If one goes by the Vatican, then the Catholic Church holds the view that if genetic engineering is one with an aim of therapeutic goals, the outcome will be acceptable. It specifically mentions there should be zero embryo loss in such procedures.
Bioethicists, however, point out that editing genomes could achieve much more. This will not just treat conditions but also lead to enhanced human beings. The problem in such a case is a subjective one. There can be debates on whether the action of genome editing to protect humans from HIV be considered treatment or not. There are also areas of contention whether scientists should eliminate genetic causes that lead to blindness or Down syndrome. Many people view such conditions as disabilities but regarded by others as something to be embraced and respected. Research by Pew has revealed that religious families will be more likely to resist genetic tinkering.
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