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DNA-Based Dating App Aims to Eliminate Genetic Diseases

In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, Harvard biologist George Church shared his plans for a genetics-based dating app that would match people to potential partners based on their genes. The end goal: to eliminate hereditary diseases, protect humans from viruses and reverse the aging process.

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In the interview, Church is asked if he’s suggesting that if all of the correct gene matches are made through the dating app where participants have their genome sequenced, inherited diseases could be eliminated. He responded, “Right. It's 7,000 diseases. It's about 5% of the population. It's about a trillion dollars a year, worldwide.” He explained, “You wouldn't find out who you're not compatible with. You'll just find out who you are compatible with.”

Church did not reveal the name of the app or when it may be available to the public. Suffering from dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy himself, Church did acknowledge potential drawbacks to the app. In response to the idea that had his genome been sequenced years ago, he may not have made the cut, Church said, “I mean, that’s true. I would hope that society sees the benefit of diversity, not just ancestral diversity, but in our abilities. There’s no perfect person.”

While Church’s app may be appealing to some, others are skeptical. Several years ago, researchers successfully altered DNA in human embryos in a way that would eliminate or correct the genes causing certain inherited diseases, using CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. The event brought up questions of ethics and eugenics.

With gene-editing technology becoming increasingly accessible to anyone with an interest, it’s probably going to be a matter of when, not if, this boundary is crossed, with unknown consequences. While gene-editing technology has the potential to be great, it could also be easily, and seriously, misused and abused.

What do you think? Would Church’s app be another step toward “designer babies?” Or is this an idea you could stand behind?