Societal Aspects of Human Gene Editing

Topic 1. Societal Aspects of Human Gene Editing. Read the letter-to-the-editor to a newspaper by Dr. Cox, in which he states an opinion about the use of CRISPR for human gene editing.

  • (a) In your own words, what is the main point that Dr. Cox is trying to make?
  • (b) How can our society reconcile differing views about the ethics of using biotechnology? Explain.

Topic 2. Societal Aspects of Gene Drives in Wild Populations. In the article by Zimmer (2017), Kevin Esvelt says that he made a huge mistake by championing the application of a technology that he now says is far too dangerous to actually deploy. In a post of about 125 words, address the following:

  • (a) What is the technology that he championed? What does it consist of and why does he think it’s too risky to use outside the lab?
  • (b) In your opinion, what sorts of laws and regulations, if any, should society put into place to regulate the technology that Esvelt regrets championing?

Topic 3. Pedigrees for Traits that are Controlled by a Single Gene. While most human traits are controlled by more than one gene, a subset of them are controlled by a single gene for that trait. In such cases, the pedigree can be useful in determining the mode of inheritance, such as autosomal dominant, autosomalrecessive, or X-linked recessive. The document Pedigrees.pdf **  contains the pedigree for three different traits from the same family: Trait 1, Trait 2 and Trait 3. In each pedigree, individuals with the trait are shaded. These pedigrees follow the usual conventions for pedigrees: squares are males; circles are female; offspring are drawn under each mating pair. See book for details.

  • (a) Which of the three traits (Trait 1, Trait 2, Trait 3) follows an X-linked recessive pattern of inheritance?
  • (b) Which clues from the pedigree support your conclusion?


Cox, J. (2017, October 11). Compromise sure beats division. Courier-Record Newspaper [Blackstone, Virginia], p. A4. Can be found via this link:  cox crisprletter.pdf **

Zimmer, C. (2017, November 16). ‘Gene drives’ are too risky for field trials, scientists say. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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