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Abstract

Recent developments in gene-editing technology have enabled scientists to manipulate the human genome in unprecedented ways. One technology in particular, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Pallindromic Repeat (CRISPR), has made gene editing more precise and cost-effective than ever before. Indeed, scientists have already shown that CRISPR can eliminate genes linked to life-threatening diseases from an individual’s genetic makeup and, when used on human embryos, CRISPR has the potential to permanently eliminate hereditary diseases from the human genome in its entirety. These developments have brought great hope to individuals and their families, who suffer from genetically linked diseases. But there is a dark side: in the wrong hands, CRISPR could negatively impact the course of human evolution or be used to create biological weaponry. Despite these possible consequences, CRISPR remains largely unregulated due to the United States’s outdated regulatory scheme for biotechnology. Moreover, human embryo research, which is likely critical to maximizing the therapeutic applications of CRISPR, is not easily undertaken by scientists due to a number of federal and state restrictions aimed at preventing such research. This Note examines the possible benefits and consequences of CRISPR and discusses the current regulations in both the fields of biotechnology and human embryo research that hamper the government’s ability to effectively regulate this technology. Ultimately, this Note proposes a new regulatory scheme for biotechnology that focuses on the processes used to create products using CRISPR, rather than the products themselves, with a focus on enabling ethical research using human embryos to maximize the potential benefits of CRISPR.

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