Interventions in the genome: And nobody notices!

Theologian Peter Dabrock, chairman of the German Ethics Council, criticizes that science is currently creating facts and changing the human genome without there being any social discussion about it.

"What have you done?"
Peter Dabrock asks: "Will we one day (...) have to be asked the question:" Where have you been, what did you do when scientists were preparing to (...) change the human genome? "

Systematic changes in the human genome
Dabrock does not question that people can and should intervene in nature, but this must be done responsibly. At the moment, however, we would "slip into irreversible, systematic changes in the human genome."

Fundamental questions
He opposes the fact that questions of "as fundamental importance as the manipulation of our biological basis are left to the knowledge community alone". That is currently happening.

Germline changes
Scientists in the United States would successfully research changing the germ line with which possible offspring carry on inherited diseases.

Intentional control of evolution
This means that humans wanted to control their own evolution deliberately, in contrast to mutations that always occur in nature. But then people would have to take responsibility.

A question for the United Nations
The United Nations asked the following questions: “Do we want such changes? Can (...) the therapy of serious illnesses remain morally good if the way there is morally questionable? "

Questionable way
Dobradt outlines "endangerment tests on later people who cannot consent". He asks: "Do we want to try therapeutic interventions that affect the genome, although the disease-preventing effects can be discovered in the same way by preimplantation diagnosis?"

Open questions
Dobradt fears genetic brainwashing that has not been put up for discussion: “Do we want this type of manipulation, even if it provides a template for further supposed perfection in humans? What risks do we want to burden future generations, even though we know from the findings in systems biology and epigenetics (...) that some consequences of genetic changes can only occur in children? "

No political debate
Dobradt criticizes that the controversial positions on these issues are not an issue in global politics.

Human breeding?
Concerns about uninhibited intervention in the human genome do not only come from the Protestant theologian Dobradt. The protagonist of "new atheism", evolutionary biology
Richard Dawkins also warned against doing anything that is biologically possible.

Dairy cows and muscle sports
Dawkins believes it is possible to manipulate the human genome in such a way that people with extreme muscle mass or outstanding mathematical talent are just as “breedable” as fattening bulls that have arisen from genetic engineering. Failing to do so is not a question of biotechnological possibility, but of human ethics.

A door opener?
Dobradt fears that unchecked control of the human genome in hereditary diseases could also result in unquestioned interventions in the human genome. So do we have to fear that rich parents will get a “genetic wish list” for their child in the future?

Criticism of gender terminism
Deep interventions in the genome to prevent diseases should also be viewed critically from the current state of evolutionary biology.
The biologists Jablonka and Lamb think it is necessary to supplement the synthetic evolution theory. Inheritance would not only take place in the genome, but also in three other dimensions.

Behavior, symbols and language
Body cells pass on information through epigenetic distribution, and animals through behavior. In humans, symbolic inheritance, language and writing play an essential role. Molecular, developmental and behavioral biology showed that inheritance also takes place outside the genes.

Consequences for practice
For medical practice, this means that if a person has a certain genetic disposition for a disease, extra-genetic factors contribute to whether the disease breaks out or not. Genes, social environment, mediation through language, individual learning, biology and life history relate to each other.

Networks of genes
There is, according to Lamb and Jablonka, not the one gene that decides on a disease, and the average increased risk with a genetic predisposition says nothing about the individual. Therapy can be useful for one person with a specific genetic disposition, but harmful for another with the "same" disposition, because the networks of different genes are related to non-genetic factors.

Non-genetic factors
The interplay of genes and non-genetic factors is so complex that the social and cultural behaviors that have been handed down in upbringing and family influence the “genetic disposition”, and grandchildren seem to inherit psychological stress. An example: genetic makeup can be changed by being overweight, while being overweight is a result of eating behavior.

Consider non-genetic factors
"Hereditary diseases" can only be prevented if genetic, extra-genetic and symbolic-cultural aspects are incorporated into the therapy. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

Video: Genomic Medicine - Bruce Korf 2016 (June 2021).