Tag: technology

Bioethics Blogs

Grounding ethics from below: CRISPR-cas9 and genetic modification

By Anjan Chatterjee

The University of Pennsylvania

Anjan Chatterjee is the Frank A. and Gwladys H. Elliott Professor and Chair of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital. He is a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his BA in Philosophy from Haverford College, MD from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago. His clinical practice focuses on patients with cognitive disorders. His research addresses questions about spatial cognition and language, attention, neuroethics, and neuroaesthetics. He wrote The Aesthetic Brain: How we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art and co-edited: Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, medicine, and society, and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: behavioral neurology and neuropsychology. He is or has been on the editorial boards of: American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, Behavioural Neurology, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Neuropsychology, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, European Neurology, Empirical Studies of the Arts, The Open Ethics Journal and Policy Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology. He was awarded the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contribution to Psychology and the Arts by the American Psychological Association. He is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society, the past President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, and the past President of the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society. He serves on the Boards of Haverford College, the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. 

In 1876, Gustav Fechner (1876) introduced an “aesthetics from below.” He contrasted this approach with an aesthetics from above by which he meant that, rather than defining aesthetic experiences using first principles, one could investigate people’s responses to stimuli and use these data to ground aesthetic theory.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

A DNA App Store Is Here, but Proceed with Caution

July 24, 2017

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A Silicon Valley startup called Helix is betting on the notion that not only do people want to learn more about their DNA, but they’ll also pay to keep interacting with it.

Today the company, which was founded in 2015 with $100 million from genomics giant Illumina, is launching its much-anticipated online hub where people can digitally explore their genetic code by downloading different applications on their computers or mobile devices. Think of it as an app store for your genome (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2016: DNA App Store”).

Personalized genetic information has become an affordable commodity. The early success of leaders like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, which sell DNA testing kits for $200 or less, has ushered in a wave of new companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic tests for everything from ancestry to the wine you should drink based on your DNA.

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MIT Technology Review

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Genetically Engineering Nature Will Be Way More Complicated Than We Thought

July 20, 2017

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For more than half a century, scientists have dreamed of harnessing an odd quirk of nature— “selfish genes,” which bypass the normal 50/50 laws of inheritance and force their way into offspring—to engineer entire species. A few years ago, the advent of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology turned this science fictional concept into a dazzling potential reality, called a gene drive. But after all the hype, and fear of the technology’s misuse, scientists are now questioning whether gene drives will work at all.

Gene drive is a molecular technology that forces an edited gene to be passed along into all of an organism’s offspring, overriding nature’s 50/50 inheritance mix. The first human-engineered gene drive was only demonstrated in fruit flies in 2015, but scientists were soon talking about using gene drives to exterminate invasive pests or kill off throngs of malarial mosquitoes.

But soon after, other researchers demonstrated that as an infertility mutation in female mosquitoes was successfully passed on to offspring over many generations, resistance emerged, allowing some mosquitoes to avoid inheriting the mutation. Just as bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, wild populations can develop resistance to modifications aimed at destroying them. Gene drive, dead.

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Image: By DBCLS 統合TV, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55175302

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Gizmodo

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Trump is Gross: Taking Political Taste (and Distaste) Seriously

by Shelley Park 

ABSTRACT. This paper advances the somewhat unphilosophical thesis that “Trump is gross” to draw attention to the need to take matters of taste seriously in politics. I begin by exploring the slipperiness of distinctions between aesthetics, epistemology, and ethics, subsequently suggesting that we may need to pivot toward the aesthetic to understand and respond to the historical moment we inhabit. More specifically, I suggest that, in order to understand how Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and in order to stem the damage that preceded this and will ensue from it, we need to understand the power of political taste (and distaste, including disgust) as both a force of resistance and as a force of normalization.

My 5-year-old granddaughter refers to foods, clothes, and people she does not like as “supergross.” It is a verbiage that I have found myself adopting for talking about many things Trumpian, including the man himself. The gaudy, gold-plated everything in Trump Towers; his ill-fitting suits; his poorly executed fake tan and comb-over; his red baseball cap emblazoned with “Make America Great Again;” his creepy way of talking about women (including his own daughters); his racist vitriol about Blacks, Muslims and Mexicans; his blatant over-the-top narcissism; his uncontrolled tantrums; his ridiculous tweets; his outlandish claims; his awkward hand gestures and handshakes; the disquieting ease with which he is seduced by flattery; his embarrassing disregard for facts; his tortured use of language; his rudeness toward other world leaders; the obsequious manner in which other Republicans are treating the man they despised mere months ago; the servility of many Democrats in the face of a military–industrial coup.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Salk Institute Under Fire For ‘Smear’ On Women Suing It For Discrimination

July 20, 2017

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Leaders of the San Diego, California, research center have strenuously denied the allegations made by biologists Vicki Lundblad and Katherine Jones, and publicly questioned their productivity and the quality of their scientific work.

The case has divided the institute’s staff, and Salk’s statements about the women have drawn social media dismay and rebukes from prominent biologists, including Nobel laureates. “The fact that an institution would treat its own distinguished faculty in this way is very disturbing,” says Nancy Hopkins, professor emerita of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, who in the late 1990s led a groundbreaking review of MIT’s treatment of its female faculty.

Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn said in a statement that she is “saddened that an institute as justly revered as the Salk Institute is being misrepresented by accusations of gender discrimination. … I would never preside over an institute that in any way condoned, openly or otherwise, the marginalizing of female scientists.”

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Image: By TheNose – http://www.flickr.com/photos/tatler/339218853/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1708238

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Science Magazine

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

How To Make Sure We All Benefit When Nonprofits Patent Techonologies Like CRISPR

July 19, 2017

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Or when potentially lifesaving inventions are priced so high that access is limited? The public partially underwrites nonprofit discoveries via tax breaks and isn’t seeing a lot of benefit in return.

Questions like these arose recently in the case of CRISPR, the promising new gene-editing technology. After patenting it, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard sold the exclusive right to develop CRISPR-based therapies to its sister company Editas Medicine. Critics worry that this monopoly could limit important research and result in exorbitant prices on emerging treatments.

We’ve seen this situation before: For example, Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug developed and patented by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles, now costs US$129,000 for a course of treatment.

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Image: Peter Vanderwarker, CC BY

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The Conversation

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Speculation, Certainty and the Diagnostic Illusory: The Tricorder and the Deathless Man by Thierry Jutel

In the paragraphs which follow, we will be discussing the ways in which two pieces of speculative fiction, the science fiction film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the novel The Tiger’s Wife use diagnostic and prognostic certainty as part of their creative narratives. In both cases, the confidence vested in the diagnosis and its outcome is contrasted to the “diagnostic illusory” of contemporary medicine.

Even while diagnosis is medicine’s primary classification tool, it is far less circumscribed than diagnostic taxonomies suggest, as well as the power afforded those who diagnose. Even very material conditions have porous boundaries (Jutel 2013) which muddy the waters in a system that is based on tidy categories. Sarah Nettleton and her colleagues have developed the term “diagnostic illusory” to describe how medicine invests in generalisation as a way of understanding disease. In the diagnostic illusory, for the cases that resists classification, or perturb a diagnostic category, one turns to ever-more sophisticated forms of technology, with the belief that it’s just a matter of time before the explanation will become clear, and the diagnosis justified. Nettleton and her colleagues raise the idea of “illusory” to highlight the “ambiguities and nuanced complexities associated with the biomedical imperative to name and classify” (Nettleton, Kitzinger, and Kitzinger 2014).

In this short essay, we will explore how two speculative texts represent diagnosis, highlighting through their respectively futuristic and supernatural approaches the yearnings of contemporary medicine, and the society it serves, for diagnostic certainty.

 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the Tricorder

In the science fiction epic Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Nimoy 1986), the Starship Enterprise and its crew have come back to planet earth in 1986 to save the humpback whale from extinction and by extension, to save planet earth from destruction in the future.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

DNA-Encoded Movie Points Way to ‘Molecular Recorder’

Credit: Seth Shipman, Harvard Medical School, Boston

There’s a reason why our cells store all of their genetic information as DNA. This remarkable molecule is unsurpassed for storing lots of data in an exceedingly small space. In fact, some have speculated that, if encoded in DNA, all of the data ever generated by humans could fit in a room about the size of a two-car garage and, if that room happens to be climate controlled, the data would remain intact for hundreds of thousands of years! [1]

Scientists have already explored whether synthetic DNA molecules on a chip might prove useful for archiving vast amounts of digital information. Now, an NIH-funded team of researchers is taking DNA’s information storage capabilities in another intriguing direction. They’ve devised their own code to record information not on a DNA chip, but in the DNA of living cells. Already, the team has used bacterial cells to store the data needed to outline the shape of a human hand, as well the data necessary to reproduce five frames from a famous vintage film of a horse galloping (see above).

But the researchers’ ultimate goal isn’t to make drawings or movies. They envision one day using DNA as a type of “molecular recorder” that will continuously monitor events taking place within a cell, providing potentially unprecedented looks at how cells function in both health and disease.

The Harvard Medical School team, led by Seth Shipman and George Church, built their molecular recorder using the CRISPR/Cas complex, much touted on this blog as a gene-editing tool.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Elon Musk Urges U.S. Governors to Regulate AI Before “It’s Too Late”

July 17, 2017

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He may want to send us all to space and make the world drive electric cars, but Elon Musk isn’t gung ho about all technologies. In particular, he’s famously uneasy about the development of machine learning, and has in the past gone so far as stating that he believes building a general intelligence AI as tantamount to “summoning the demon.” Now, he’s reaffirmed that message to U.S. governors, urging them to regulate AI—and quickly.

Speaking at the National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island on Saturday, Musk called AI “the biggest risk that we face as a civilization,” according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s a sentiment shared by a small but influential crowd of techno-thinkers. Whether it’s an accurate assessment of the situation is very much up for debate, however, as Oren Etzioni, the CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Washington, has argued on these very pages.

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Image via Flickr Attribution Some rights reserved by Heisenberg Media

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MIT Technology Review

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Study Finds Memory Recognition Technology to be Effective Tool for Jurors in Evaluating Defendants

Published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, a report on “The Limited Effect of Electroencephalography Memory Recognition Evidence on Assessments of Defendant Credibility” suggests that American jurors can properly apply the results from brain-based memory recognition technology used on criminal defendants in order to fairly assess the defendants’ testimonies. As summarized by ScienceDaily, the research measured “the effect of neuroscientific evidence on subjects’ evaluation of a fictional criminal fact pattern,” though it also discovered “that the neuroscientific evidence was not as powerful a predictor as the overall strength of the case in determining outcomes.”

“The technology measures the electrical brain activity of defendants and witnesses, and should improve the legal system’s ability to determine who is telling the truth and who is not… Our new interdisciplinary research is exciting because it’s some of the first to empirically test how this would work in practice,” lead author of the study Francis Shen told ScienceDaily. The University of Minnesota law professor and director of its Neurolaw Lab conducted two separate experiments of online and in-person subjects.  “One day, it could become commonplace in justice investigations. However, we need more studies like this and more collaboration across disciplines before we can be confident that this type of evidence should be used in real legal cases.”

Research on the impact of brain-based memory recognition technology – as evidence of a testimony’s reliability or lack thereof in the courtroom – has been researched by scientific and legal scholars alike over the past twenty years. Hope in its potential to better the legal system now appears closer to being realized.

 

The post Study Finds Memory Recognition Technology to be Effective Tool for Jurors in Evaluating Defendants appeared first on Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.