Gene Drives and Genome Modification in Nonhuman Animals: A Concern for Informed Consent?

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 28 (1):93-99 (2019)
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In recent years, CRISPR-Cas9 has become one of the simplest and most cost-effective genetic engineering techniques among scientists and researchers aiming to alter genes in organisms. As Zika came to the fore as a global health crisis, many suggested the use of CRISPR-Cas9 gene drives in mosquitoes as a possible means to prevent the transmission of the virus without the need to subject humans to risky experimental treatments. This paper suggests that using gene drives or other forms of genome editing in nonhumans (like mosquitos) for the purposes of disease prevention raises important issues about informed consent. Additionally, it examines the consequences this line of inquiry could have for the use of gene drives as a tool in public health and suggests that the guidance offered by informed consent protocols could help the scientific community deploy gene drives in a way that ensures that ongoing research is consistent with our ethical priorities.



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Joanna Smolenski
Baylor College of Medicine

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