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Books, Journals, New Media
September 15, 2004

Genetic Modification

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(11):1374-1375. doi:10.1001/jama.292.11.1374

This book will be essential reading for any serious student of either germline gene therapy, or, as the authors have chosen to expand the category, "inheritable genetic modification" (IGM). A close reading, however, leaves uncertain how many such students there will, or should, be.

In September 1997 two programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convened a 20-person working group to study IGM. The authors define IGM as human technical interventions for the purpose of making genetic changes in gametes, embryos, fetuses, or born humans that, intentionally or not, lead to changes that can be passed on to their descendants. These interventions include germline gene therapy, nuclear or cytoplasmic transfer in oocytes (which can lead to inheritable changes in mitochondrial DNA), and unintended effects of somatic cell gene therapy on gametes, among other things. In September 2000 Audrey Chapman and Mark Frankel, the editors of this volume, issued a 60-page report based on the workshop discussions. Their worthy recommendations called for great care in any use of IGM, including the establishment of a public body to supervise even its first possible applications. Three years later, this book followed, its 20 chapters written by Chapman, Frankel, and 17 of the working group members, serving as something in the nature of supporting material for the earlier AAAS report.