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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Biotechnology is going through a rapidly advancing but ethically fraught period.

Scientists proposed a long-term project Thursday that involves creating DNA blueprints for making human beings, a prospect some observers find troubling.
The researchers said they have no intention of using these genomes -- huge collections of genetic material -- to make people. Instead, they said in interviews, human genomes would be used in lab experiment: inserted, for example, into cells or simplified versions of organs called organoids.
Plans for the project, which leaked last month, have already set off an ethical debate, because the ability to chemically fabricate the complete set of human chromosomes could theoretically allow the creation of babies without biological parents.
Some critics also objected to the secrecy surrounding a meeting to discuss the project at Harvard Medical School in May. The organizers said they avoided publicity so as to not jeopardize publication of the proposal in a peer reviewed scientific journal. The publication occurred on Thursday by the journal Science.
Whether the federal government will support the project is still unknown. Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, which is the main funder of medical research in the United States, had a tepid response Thursday