BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JULY 12, 1999 ISSUE
COVER STORY

Genetic Haves and Have-Nots?


As researchers perfect current methods of gene therapy, they are preparing for an even more profound development: germ-line gene therapy, in which changes made to a patient's genes would be passed on to all of the patient's offspring.




That possibility poses unprecedented ethical and practical questions. Bioethicists and scientists worry that the technology could be used by those seeking to create superhumans or designer babies.

Lee M. Silver, a biologist at Princeton University, is concerned that the technology could create a divide between genetic haves and have-nots. ''People who can't afford it will be disadvantaged,'' he says.

Even so, some scientists expect germ-line therapy to arrive soon. Gregory Stock, director of the Science, Technology & Society program at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, says: ''It's not a question of if it will happen. It's a question of when.''


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