Genetic Protection Modifications: Moving Beyond the Binary Distinction Between Therapy and Enhancement for Human Genome Editing

CRISPR J. 2019 Dec;2(6):362-369. doi: 10.1089/crispr.2019.0024.


The current debate and policy surrounding the use of genome editing in humans typically relies on a binary distinction between therapy and human enhancement. Here, we argue that this dichotomy fails to take into account perhaps the most significant potential uses of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in humans. We argue that genetic treatment of sporadic Alzheimer's disease, breast and ovarian cancer predisposing BRCA1/2 mutations, and the introduction of human immunodeficiency virus resistance in humans should be considered within a new category of genetic protection treatments. We suggest that if this category is not introduced, life-altering research might be unnecessarily limited by current or future policy. Otherwise ad hoc decisions might be made, which introduce a risk of unforeseen moral costs, and might overlook or fail to address some important opportunities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Gene Editing / ethics*
  • Gene Editing / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / prevention & control
  • Genetic Therapy / ethics
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Primary Prevention / ethics*
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • RNA, Guide / genetics


  • RNA, Guide