How is it that a statement by the Vatican has delayed my annual report to the National Institutes of Health? Not being Catholic, I generally don't pay much attention to Papal announcements, but maybe I need to start listening. Apparently back in March, the Vatican suggested that "genetic manipulations which alter DNA"
are mortal sins.
Since just about everything I do in the lab involves genetic manipulations which alter DNA (in fact the only organisms in our lab which aren't
genetically engineered are the people who work there), I can add one more item to my long list of reasons for why I'm headed to eternal condemnation.
But before I get to Hell, I need to submit my annual NIH Fellowship update. I have a fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, which pays my not-so-large salary. In return for the money, I tell the NIH what I've been doing every year. That's fair enough - the NIH should expect something for their money.
Everything that I have done this year, however, has involved some sort of genetic engineering - which apparently upsets the Pope. This is unfortunate, because if we eliminated all genetic engineering, essentially all biomedical research would grind to a halt. Genetic engineering, in some restricted applications, has its risks, but the vast majority of genetic engineering that goes on every day in thousands of labs all over the world is essential to our efforts to understand both basic biology and the impact of genes on our health.