Walter Johnson, Center Scholar and 1L at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, co-authored a report exploring the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and optimize the human genome.
How to Optimize Human Biology: Where Genome Editing and Artificial Intelligence Collide, co-authored with Eleonore Pauwels, was published by the Wilson Center, an influential think tank in Washington, D.C. The report focuses on the potentially powerful combination of CRISPR genome editing technology and AI-driven genomic analysis. Practitioners could use these technologies to diagnose and “patch” defective genes in patients or to edit out disease-causing mutations during prenatal development – a process known as germline genomic editing.
The diagnosis and treatment of disease is not the only potential use for this emerging technology. “Just as a machine can be optimized to perform varying functions, gene editing in combination with artificial intelligence could enable the honing of human biology for purposes other than solely improved health.” This could include selecting for physical characteristics or optimizing bodies for specific environments, like space travel.
Applications of AI-assisted genomic editing face ethical and legal hurdles, particularly in the United States. The report discusses regulatory issues that must be solved before widespread research and treatment can begin and compares the United States’ efforts to those of China – a country that is investing heavily in biomedical technology.