Starting next month, the Canadian Council of Church’s Faith and Life Sciences Reference Group (FLSRG)—of which the CRC has membership through Dr. James Rusthoven—will be hosting a two-part webinar series (English only) on CRISPR/Cas9, a gene-editing technology that is raising new possibilities and questions regarding the treatment of diseases. Register for these webinars via Eventbrite.
Through an interview with FLSRG Co-Chair, Rev. Dr. Peter Kuhnert, we can better understand this complex technology and why it should be on our radar as Christians in Canada. Sign up for their 2 upcoming webinars below.
The CCC: What is CRISPR (in layman's terms) and why is it important people familiarize themselves with it?
PK: CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”) is a new way for scientists to make simple, effective, and accurate changes to genetic material. It is shorthand for CRISPR / Cas9. The protein Cas9 acts as a kind of scissors and can be programmed to cut strands of DNA at a select target. This form of genome editing can have the effect of disabling a gene or repairing it.
The CCC : How might CRISPR be used in the future to improve the quality of people's lives?
PK : Some diseases, like cystic fibrosis (an often-fatal lung condition) or hemophilia (a bleeding disorder), occur because of a simple change in a single gene. CRISPR offers a potential way to cure diseases that cause suffering for millions of people around the world, or even prevent them by disabling certain genes present in DNA.
The CCC : Given the many scientific and bioethical concerns facing society today, why has the FLSRG decided to prioritize the issue of CRISPR and genetic modification?
PK : Like splitting the atom or creating the computer, gene editing technologies like CRISPR are going to change our world in many ways — some very good ways and some potentially very challenging ways. We need to understand these technologies and their limits so that we can help our governments develop effective guidelines for the safe use of these technologies — for the good of creation and for the good of humanity.
The CCC : Why are you personally looking forward to the webinar series, or what are you personally looking forward to learning / gaining from it?
PK : I am going to learn more about the details of how CRISPR works and also how society has tried to develop guidelines around the safe and ethical use of this powerful tool. I am looking forward to hearing from webinar participants who have personal experience with this tool and learn what their hopes and fears might be.
The CCC : How might these webinars benefit people who aren't experts in genetic technology or bioethics?
PK : We are all learners in this area. If you are at all interested, please join us for the webinar. We would love to hear from you — if the webinar inspired you, but also if it needs refining to better meet the needs of Canadian Christians and people of faith who are interested in exploring this important new area of knowledge. Make sure to register on Eventbrite (we will be adding more information to this page as we get closer to the webinars).
Rev. Dr. Peter Kuhnert is a family physician with over 30 years of clinical experience and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada with 15 years of ministry experience. He is based in Waterloo and has served as Co-Chair of the Faith and Life Sciences Reference Group (FSLRG) since 2018.
- Part I: What could CRISPR-Cas9 mean for human flourishing? (Wednesday, March 31 at 4 pm EST)
- Part II: Who will determine the course of human genome editing? (Wednesday, April 28 at 4 pm ET)