Research Ethics Roundup: Genetically Modifying Human Embryos, Communities Created by Genome Sequencing, and More

From a study that explores the regulatory burden researchers face to the development of a device that applies a biodegradable adhesive to internal organs, this week’s Research Ethics Roundup delves into how advances in technology and changes in regulations are impacting the course of research.

Scissors cutting through red ribbon or tape, isolated on white. Scissors cutting ceremonyUS National Academies Issue Call to Cut Red Tape: The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that stated the regulatory burden researchers face has the potential to negatively impact the field. The report cited inconsistencies in regulations, applications, and guidelines among different funding agencies as a barrier to the conduct of research, and recommended that that Congress explore ways to streamline agency policies and forms. It also called for a public-private research policy board that would assess whether the current regulations have improved research practices.

UK Scientists Seek Permission to Genetically Modify Human Embryos: A UK researcher has proposed a study which would utilize CRISPR/Cas9 technology on human embryos to better understand the causes of miscarriage. If approved, the research study would be Britain’s first involving genetically modified embryos. The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is still considering the application.

How GeiStock_000010760714_Smallnome Sequencing Creates Communities Around Rare Disorders: Families with children who have been diagnosed with rare conditions through genomic sequencing have been using social media to create communities of subjects and researchers to foster collaboration in order to better understand symptoms and treatment options. By refining the breadth of symptoms associated with specific gene mutations, it is hoped that these conditions can be more easily diagnosed in the future without relying on genetic testing.

Surgical Device Repairs Damaged Still-Beating Heart with Glue: Harvard University researchers have developed a device that applies a biodegradable adhesive to internal organs through keyhole incisions. The technique has repaired wounds in the stomachs and abdominal walls of rodents and pigs, and has closed a hole in the beating heart of a live pig. The researchers are now studying the healing rate of the wounds in order to further refine the degradation rate of the patch.