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Gene editing could lead to ‘cascade’ of change

Photo of man with gray hair standing in WVU Medicine white lab coat

Dr. Clay Marsh

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West Virginia University Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh says that although “a lot of good promise” could come from gene editing, it is mostly practiced in lab models, not in people. A professor in China announced that he has successfully altered twin girls’ DNA to prevent them from contracting HIV; however, ethicists and scientists alike have condemned gene editing in humans. Marsh notes the human body is complicated and everything is so interconnected that changing one thing can lead to a cascade of changing everything.

Dr. Clay Marsh
WVU School of Medicine
Vice President and Executive Dean of Health Sciences

“If a person is born with a particular gene that makes them at risk for breast cancer or ovarian cancer or other diseases, scientists may be able to identify that susceptibility and get rid of it. The big concern, though, is the butterfly effect – little changes can lead to big outcome differences – and this is editing the basic blueprint of our DNA. This might lead to other editing effects such as deleting certain genes that protect you from cancer or cut out a gene set that might reduce your resistance to infection.”

Dr. Clay Marsh talks about gene editing (video)



CONTACT: Tara Scatterday, Executive Director, WVU Health Sciences

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