CRISPR Ethics: Moral Considerations for Applications of a Powerful Tool

J Mol Biol. 2019 Jan 4;431(1):88-101. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2018.05.044. Epub 2018 Jun 7.


With the emergence of CRISPR technology, targeted editing of a wide variety of genomes is no longer an abstract hypothetical, but occurs regularly. As application areas of CRISPR are exceeding beyond research and biomedical therapies, new and existing ethical concerns abound throughout the global community about the appropriate scope of the systems' use. Here we review fundamental ethical issues including the following: 1) the extent to which CRISPR use should be permitted; 2) access to CRISPR applications; 3) whether a regulatory framework(s) for clinical research involving human subjects might accommodate all types of human genome editing, including editing of the germline; and 4) whether international regulations governing inappropriate CRISPR utilization should be crafted and publicized. We conclude that moral decision making should evolve as the science of genomic engineering advances and hold that it would be reasonable for national and supranational legislatures to consider evidence-based regulation of certain CRISPR applications for the betterment of human health and progress.

Keywords: CRISPR–Cas9; bioengineering; genetic engineering; genome editing; research ethics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Decision Making / ethics
  • Gene Editing / ethics*
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / ethics