April 13, 2019

NYT: A drug to turbocharge the brain. Who should get it?

Carl Zimmer, The New York Times:
Surveys about gene editing tend to reflect a traditional divide between diseases and enhancement. People are more inclined to approve gene editing to prevent a disease, and tend to say enhancement is wrong.
But if a Klotho-based treatment one day prevents dementia, there may be no way to enjoy those benefits without also accepting its use as a brain enhancement.
"I still struggle with it," Dr. Dubal said. Despite the ethical complexities, she thinks that cognitive enhancement from Klotho could be a good thing — not just for individuals, but for society.
The article details potentially ground-breaking effects from elevated levels of the hormone Klotho and is worth a read for that alone. It goes further, into the question of whether therapies offering enhancing side effects are ethical.

No doubt this question requires in-depth thought. My initial take, though, is that protecting humans from degenerative brain disorders outweighs any fair-play concern over brain enhancement. Whether a patient acquires enhanced capabilities or only protection from disease, the benefit is positive. And if the benefit is made widely available to all manner of patients, we have an evolution of the human condition.

Broadly solve the problem of degenerative brain disorders with a daily pill and few will quibble over enhanced SAT scores.

#medicine #brainDisorders #klotho