human genome

Genetics, ethics, race and playing God: StatNews profiles an intriguing researcher

Genetics, ethics, race and playing God: StatNews profiles an intriguing researcher

Every so often, an article appears that is written with such grace and taste from an unexpected source. I’d never heard of StatNews.com, a year-old web site covering medicine, health care and life sciences started by John Henry, the billionaire owner of The Boston Globe.

Recently, it produced a piece about a Harvard genetics professor, who seems to be an agnostic, reaching out to the religious community to explain the latest research about the human genome. It could only have been done by someone who knows the genetics field but who could also grasp the theological objections by people not so familiar with it.

We are talking about big, big questions here.

RANDALLSTOWN, Md. -- Is the human genome sacred? Does editing it violate the idea that we’re made in God’s image or, perhaps worse, allow us to “play God”?
It’s hard to imagine weightier questions. And so to address them, Ting Wu is starting small.
Last month, the geneticist was here in a conference room outside Baltimore, its pale green walls lined with mirrors, asking pastors from area black churches to consider helping her.
Wu’s research focuses on the nitty-gritty of the genome; her lab at Harvard Medical School studies the positioning and behavior of chromosomes. But she’s also interested in improving the public’s understanding of genetics. She has gone to classrooms and briefed congressional aides. She has advised the team behind “Grey’s Anatomy.”
At a time of unprecedented access to genetic tests and plummeting costs for genetic sequencing, Wu believes people should know what scientific advances mean for them. The challenge is empowering communities that are skeptical of science because they have been underserved or even mistreated in the past.

The writer cuts to the chase, explaining that the issue is genome editing.

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