Genome Editing Techniques are seen to be at the frontier of current research in the field of emerging biotechnologies. The latest revolutionary development, the so-called CRISPR technology, represents a paradigmatic example of the ambiguity of such techniques and has resulted in an international interdisciplinary debate on whether or not it is necessary to ban the application of this technique by means of a moratorium on its use for human germline modifications, particularly in human embryos in the reproduction process. However, given (...) that other germline engineering techniques like mitochondrial DNA transfer techniques are already permitted and applied, the question arises what lies at the root of the apparent social unease about the modification of the human germline by Genome Editing Techniques like CRISPR. Against this background, the book seeks to make a substantial contribution to the current debate about a responsible and participatory framework for research on emerging biotechnologies by analysing underlying perceptions, attitudes, arguments and the reasoning on Genome Editing Techniques. (shrink)
Genome editing techniques are seen to be at the frontier of current research in the field of emerging biotechnologies. However, such biotechnological research is tensioned at the interface of science, technology and society. On the one hand, this means that it offers a tremendous potential to provide new concepts, methods and – in the long run – novel applications for urgent challenges and needs within society.
According to the judgement of the European Court of Justice in 2014, human parthenogenetic stem cells are excluded from the patenting prohibition of procedures based on hESC by the European Biopatent Directive, because human parthenotes are not human embryos. This article is based on the thesis that in light of the technological advances in the field of stem cell research, the attribution of the term ‘human embryo’ to certain entities on a descriptive level as well as the attribution of a (...) normative protection status to certain entities based on the criterion of totipotency, are becoming increasingly unclear. The example of human parthenotes in particular demonstrates that totipotency is not at all a necessary condition for the attribution of the term ‘human embryo’. Furthermore, the example of hiPSC and somatic cells particularly shows that totipotency is also not a sufficient condition for the attribution of a normative protection status to certain entities. Therefore, it is not a suitable criterion for distinguishing between human embryos worthy of protection and human non-embryos not worthy of protection. Consequently, this conclusion has repercussions for the patenting question. The strict delineation between an ethically problematic commercial use of human embryos and the concomitant patenting prohibition of hESC-based procedures and an ethically unproblematic commercial use of human non-embryos and the therefore either unrestrictedly permitted or even unregulated patenting of procedures based on these alleged alternatives becomes increasingly blurred. (shrink)
In contrast to embryo donation, the permissibility of 2PN cell donation is highly controversial in Germany. This article is based on there being a legal loophole with respect to 2PN cell donation, which results from an inconsistency within the Embryo Protection Act on the normative status of 2PN cells. Following that thesis, the article argues that, on the basis of the normative criterion totipotency (i.e. the capacity to develop into a born human being), 2PN cells should also be considered human (...) embryos within the meaning of the Act and thereby be protected by that Act in the same way as embryos. However, the normative assumption that 2PN cells should already be endowed with human dignity and the right to life has absurd consequences. Moreover, the consistent continuation of the Embryo Protection Act, as well as of the underlying ethical position or argumentation (i.e. the potentiality argument), leads to the even more absurd consequence of having to place every human somatic cell under the protection of human dignity and the right to life. As totipotency or the developmental potential therefore cannot delimit entities considered worthy of protection (i.e. human embryos) from entities considered not worthy of protection (i.e. 2PN cells, gametes, hESC, hiPSC and human somatic cells), it is not a suitable normative criterion. As a paradigmatic case, 2PN cell donation demonstrates that by retaining this normative criterion the now obsolete German Embryo Protection (Act) ultimately undermines itself. (shrink)