Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Unique Forms of Discontinuity

What is "special" about the ethics of gene transfer trials? To many, the answer is "nothing." Indeed, many gene transfer researchers resent what they perceive as an unusually high bar for initiating human studies of gene transfer.

The March 2008 issue of Molecular Therapy contains an excellent article by ethicist Nancy King and gene transfer researcher Odile Cohen-Haguenauer that attempts to answer this question. They argue that gene transfer is subject to high degrees of uncertainty, and that a trial's knowledge environment can change rapidly. Though the authors shy from branding gene transfer as "unique" or "distinctive," they also seem to suggest that scientific uncertainty, and a number of other considerations, call out for a different model for thinking about translational research ethics.

I couldn't agree more. (photo credit: his noodly appendage 2005, Alberto Boccioni 1913)

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