A proposal by a group of scientists and businesspeople to synthesize a human genome from scratch is attracting sharp criticism for dodging the big ethical questions such a step raises. The proposal, described today in a two-and-a-half-page letter being published in Science, is to string together synthetically made DNA and shape from it a human genome able to power a cell in a dish, according to lead authors Jef Boeke of New York University’s Langone Medical Center and biotechnologist George Church of Harvard Medical School.A different team previously made bacteria with lab-made genes, but the human genome is far larger. The backers of the new plan, called HGP-write, argue that a mega-project could cause the cost of fabricating DNA to plummet 1,000-fold in 10 years, prompting revolutionary advances in science and industry. But the paper’s 25 authors remain silent on the looming ethical debate: will we be able to make people with artificial genomes, and if so, should we? “Before launching into such a momentous project, questions need to be asked,” including whether it should even occur, says Stanford University synthetic biologist Drew Endy. “The authors fail to pose these essential questions. In fact, in their proposal, they fail to pose… Read full this story
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