Bioethical and biolegal analysis of the challenges of emerging technologies applied to human health and proposal of regulation and action protocols.

To analyze from Bioethics and Biolaw (Spanish, European and international) what are the main ethical issues raised by emerging technologies applied to human health and to make specific proposals for these to be adequately addressed in the coming years.

The analysis will be carried out in the following areas of emerging biotechnologies:

  • Gene therapy and application of CRISPR/Cas9, or gene editing, to human health, both germline and somatic.
  • Use of biotechnologies for breeding purposes: beyond health. In particular, possible telomere lengthening and increased life expectancy.
  • Creation of hybrids and organoids.

Introduction: technology and emerging issues in bioethics

Bioethics was born 50 years ago, although it has its roots in the Hippocratic cultural tradition. In recent decades it has undergone an accelerated increase in scientific-technical possibilities with the consequent progress in research and medical applications, both diagnostic and therapeutic. Together with this exponential development of science, there should be a reflection on the ethical, bioethical and legal implications of these applications and how to make the best possible use of them to safeguard the fundamental rights of all persons.

In particular, the coming decades will see an increasing crossover, already incipient, between everything that will be produced by the genetic revolution (gene editing applied for therapeutic purposes), nanotechnology applied to humans, knowledge in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics and Neuroscience. These areas, interwoven and developed together, can lead us to an unusual and unsuspected advance in medicine and therapies, such as we have never seen before. We have in our hands a power and a future that is opening up by leaps and bounds, and that more than ever needs ethical philosophical reflection to guide it in the best possible way, in the service of humanity.

Some of these challenges are: CRISPR/Cas9 and gene editing, genetic tests and diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities, the three-parent embryo, synthetic biology and laboratory synthesis of the human genome, human-animal hybrids, animal organoids, neuroimplants and neuroethics, artificial uterus or ectogenesis, euthanasia and cryo-euthanasia, nanorobots, etc. The possibilities and issues are enormous, we do not intend to address them all, perhaps in a broader project and study, we wish to focus on the four specific objectives stated above. Each of these interventions should be analyzed and assessed in itself to see how it affects the integrity and health of the people involved and their offspring.

These advances have been greeted with enthusiasm in some quarters, but, in general, they have been viewed with suspicion. Questions arise as to how far science can go and what limits, if any, should be set. It is therefore necessary to ask what problems they pose, especially for human dignity and the rights deriving from it, what norms and principles are currently applied to these biotechnological experiments or applications, and to make proposals for regulation in the event that these are insufficient.

Specific objectives:

Analysis of the scientific aspects of these interventions.

  • Available interventions:
  1. Reproductive technologies
  2. Physical technologies
  3. Pharmacochemical technologies
  4. Neural or computer technologies
  5. Emerging or experimental technologies;
  6. Hypothetical or speculative technologies;

Analysis of the bioethical issues related to these interventions.

Analysis of the applicable international, European and Spanish regulations