Below is a conversation with bioethics commentator Kelly Hills (who BTW has a great blog), tackling some of the key issues surrounding the potential use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to make heritable genetic modifications in humans.
I really appreciate her clear and insightful answers to some tough questions that many are grappling with today on this topic.
Part of the possible power of some forms of human genetic modification procedures being considered for potential future use is that they are heritable. This means, for example, that embryonic correction of a disease-associated mutation such as in BRCA1 or of a disease-causing mutation such as that in cystic fibrosis, would not only prevent the future individual from having these mutations (and associated risks or disease), but also all of their future descendants as well. So there is at least hypothetical strong, transgenerational benefit. At the same time, this means that any associated risks with these genetic modifications (e.g. off-target effects where other genes are mistakenly edited leading to negative health outcomes or other unintended consequences) would also be inherited down this family tree...