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Using resources to discuss ethical issues

ethical issues behind using CRISPR-Cas9
education team at EMBL
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Hello, everyone. My name is Efraim Culfa, and I’m a visiting teacher at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. And in this video, I would like to present to you Be part of the CRISPR Conversation, a bioethics teaching resource on the implications of genome editing.
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Ethical considerations are indivisibly intertwined with the issues of genome editing and human health. Since CRISPR- Cas9 genome editing tools have become more accessible, ethical considerations behind this technology are in the public eye. This resource introduces students to ethical issues connected with the use of the CRISPR- Cas9 genome editing tool in various areas of research. It also encourages students to reflect and discuss the societal implications that come with this powerful technology.
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The resource will demonstrate that every student interested in the life sciences more generally and genome editing specifically has a role to play in furthering the debate. By switching between the team and individual work, the resource aims to prompt respectful exchange of opinions and evidence-based discussions.
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This resource is intended for students aged 16 to 19 years. Students should be familiar with concepts such as inheritance, population genetics, ecology and protein function. A basic understanding of genome editing and CRISPR- Cas9 is welcome.
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The resource consists of four tasks in total. The first task invites students to put themselves in the shoes of a scientist and consider the ethical aspects related to their research project. Next, students get familiar with different areas of application of CRISPR- Cas9 genome editing and identify practices that undermine or uphold the welfare of humans, animals, and plants. Students then determine their personal stance on the use of CRISPR- Cas9 by writing their names on a value line and justifying their position. In a final task, students get to know the latest European commentary on the topic of genome editing and identify occupational roles that can help them enter the conversation and accomplish the European recommendations.
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The resource package includes a teacher’s guide, a student handout, fact sheets, and an annex with supporting discussion prompts, reading, and video material.
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By using this resource, students will become familiar with the ethical dimension of genome editing, evaluate the application of CRISPR Cas9 genome editing in different fields, identify categories of ethics applicable to genome editing. Students will also practise their critical thinking and decision-making skills based on scientific evidence. Have a look through our bioethics resource package, and we hope you and your students find it useful while discussing this topical area of genomics. Please let us know what you think about the topic in the discussion below.

Discussing ethics in genomics and healthcare can be daunting and personal, for teachers and students alike. Using resources and activities can help foster and shape discussions around ethics.

The science education team at EMBL has created a bioethics classroom resource to introduce students to the ethical issues behind using CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome editing tool in various areas of research, and to prompt students to be critical consumers of information. Watch the video to find out more about this resource.

Have you already had discussions on the bioethics behind modifying the genome of an organism with your students? What resources have you used to teach the topic in class? We’ve linked some of our favourites below:

Links:

Be Part of the CRISPR Conversation (ELLS, Downloadable activity): Discussion based activity around CRISPR

Genome Generation (yourgenome.org, downloadable activity): Discussion based activity around multiple genomics topics

Debate pages (yourgenome.org), Debate pages that introduce controversial and/or ethically linked topics in genomics

ABC vs St George (Webpage), digital case study including videos that highlight a real legal case centring genomic issues

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