Pulse 98: Compassion Is More Important Than Diversity
An international team of researchers, led by University of Geneva and Oxford University scientists, has been examining the ethical issues arising from human enhancement technologies. Their conclusions, published in Nature Human Behaviour, highlight "the conflict between individual and collective well-being, together with the important role governments have to play."
"One of the great unresolved ethical enigmas is how to reconcile the interests of the individual and those of society in the event of conflict," says Julian Savulescu, professor at the Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University. "Human improvement technologies require policy makers to find a certain balance. Collective effects are important and we can’t just let the market decide."
Despite the lip service paid to the interests of the individual, the attitude of these bioethicists and their conclusions seem to me dangerously skewed toward protecting the "society" (or, more accurately in my opinion, the preconceptions of these bioethicists) against individual autonomy.
For example, a bioethicist involved in the study says: "If parents were able to choose certain traits for their baby, such as muscle strength, eye color or intelligence, this could have a severe impact on human diversity."
The fallacy of this argument is evident. Future gene editing technology could reduce susceptibility to cancer and other cruel diseases. That would certainly reduce human diversity in some ways, because more people would live long healthy lives and less people would suffer from painful diseases and die young. I think this would be unambiguously good, but these bioethicists seem to be saying that human diversity is more important.
This shows not only lack of common sense, but also lack of human compassion.
Platinum nanoparticles selectively kill cancer cells in the lab. Researchers at ETH Zurich have demonstrated that platinum nanoparticles can be used to kill liver cancer cells with greater selectivity than existing cancer drugs. A study published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition describes a way to use peptide-coated nanoparticles to introduce platinum(0) into the target cells, and then oxidize it to platinum(II), which has cytotoxic effects (kills cancer cells). The study reports that the cytotoxicity of the nanoparticles was highly selective to liver cancer cells.
Promising therapeutic strategy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Scientists at University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research have identified a new therapeutic strategy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), the most common form of acute leukemia. Only twenty-five percent of all AML patients survive five years beyond the initial diagnosis. A research paper published in Leukemia describes a possible approach for the treatment of AML patients with a mutation of the protein CEBPA. The interaction of the mutated protein with an epigenetic regulator, the so-called MLL1 complex, represents a specific vulnerability of AML cells with CEBPA mutations.
Safe, stable, fast, efficient method to reprogram stem cells. Using the measles virus vector, researchers at Mayo Clinic have boosted the efficiency of a method previously used to reprogram stem cells, a multi-vector process with four reprogramming factors, by trimming it down to to a single "one cycle" vector process. Previously, the four reprogramming factors - proteins OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and cMYC - had to be introduced individually to the cells. The new Mayo process, described in a study published in Gene Therapy, combines those factors within the measles virus vector so the process happens in one step. The scientists are persuaded that the process is safe, stable, faster, and usable for clinical applications.
Molecule could permit treating cancer and autoimmune diseases. Scientists at University of Manchester have discovered a critical part of the body's immune system, with potentially major clinical implications. A research paper published in Journal of Clinical Investigation describes a molecular pathway regulated by a tiny molecule, known as microRNA-142, which controls Regulatory T cells, which modulate the immune system and prevent autoimmune disease. According to the scientists, the study could translate into treatments for autoimmune diseases including cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease within a few years.
3D bioprinted cancer model that could lead to better drugs and treatments. University of Minnesota researchers have developed a way to study cancer cells which could lead to new and improved treatment. They have developed a new way to study these cells in a 3D in vitro model (i.e. in a culture dish rather than in a human or animal). A study published in Advanced Materials shows that the model, which consists of 3D bioprinted vascularized tumor tissues, provides a platform to identify potential therapies and screen anticancer drugs.
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