Embryo Editing for Reproduction and Research


Thursday, December 5, 2019, 5:00pm to 6:30pm


Harvard Medical School, TMEC 227, 260 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA

Ethical Frontiers in Biotechnology

Register here for this free event.





Embryo Editing for Reproduction and Research


The first publication on human embryo editing was presented by a group of Chinese scientists in 2015. Since then, several similar research papers have been published, and in November 2018, Dr. He Jiankui notoriously announced the birth of twin girls in China for whom he had altered their genomes using CRISPER-Cas9 technology.

Where do the ethical limitations of this new technology lie?

For individuals with a family history of a serious genetic disease, one perceived benefit of human germline modification would be to remove harmful genes, and consequently the threat of the disease for all their descendants. This allows carriers of genetic disease to avoid transmitting genetic harms to their offspring, while remaining genetically connect to their children.

Although society has pondered for decades the possibility of one day creating "designer babies," first to overcome genetic diseases, then later to include socially-desirable genetic traits, recent advances in genome-editing technologies have rapidly moved these discussions from the realm of science fiction toward science reality.

Drs. Hyun and Racowsky will lead the audience through a discussion of these main questions:

  • What are the clinical and non-clinical (basic science) applications of human embryo editing research?
  • What are the technical challenges and how do these challenges impact the ethics of attempting to use embryo editing in an assisted reproduction context?
  • What are the ethical issues surrounding the procurement of human gametes and embryos for gene editing research?
  • What are the prospects of pursuing reproductive uses of embryo editing in the future?

Audience participation, questions, and discussion are encouraged.



Insoo Hyun, PhD

Senior Lecturer,

Harvard Medical School

Professor of Bioethics,

Case Western Reserve University

School of Medicine




Catherine Racowsky, PhD

Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology,
Brigham and Women's Hospital




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About Ethical Frontiers

This monthly seminar series is held on the first Thursday of each month and explores issues at the intersection of ethics, technology, and bioscience.

Scientists, engineers, bioethicists and other invited experts describe the state of the science regarding brain organoids, editing embryos, engineering living systems, and other controversial frontiers of health-related science and applications.

Discussion are devoted to gaining both a deeper understanding of what is being done and can be done, while simultaneously examining what should or should not be done, under various circumstances, with an eye toward practical approaches, policies, and ethical responsibilities.