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Nat Rev Genet. 2008 Mar;9(3):239-44. doi: 10.1038/nrg2317.

The ethics of human gene transfer.

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  • 1Department of Social Studies of Medicine, Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University, 3647 Peel Street, Montreal, QB H3A 1X1, Canada.


Almost 20 years since the first gene-transfer trial was carried out in humans, the field has made significant advances towards clinical application. Nevertheless, it continues to face numerous unresolved ethical challenges--among them are the question of when to initiate human testing, the acceptability of germline modification and whether the technique should be applied to the enhancement of traits. Although such issues have precedents in other medical contexts, they take on a different character in gene transfer, in part because of the scientific uncertainty and the social context of innovation.

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