On Sunday, December 10, a group of SAR HS students attended the 11th Annual Medical Ethics Society Conference at Yeshiva University entitled “Breaking Down the Firewall.” The conference was given in honor of Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler. Presenters at the conference considered both biomedical advances and their bioethical and halachic implications. The opening remarks were made by Dr. Ed Reichman, (advisor to Medical Ethics Society) who recently addressed SAR students on the halachot of stem cell research and cloning.
Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo’s presentation entitled “The Anti-Aging Revolution,” reviewed advances made in the field of cell biology as they relate to Alzheimers, Huntingtons and Parkinsons diseases, all neurodegenerative disorders with age related correlations. She discussed lysosomes and their role in autophagy. In a discussion following her presentation she expressed a willingness to allow a small group of our students to visit her laboratory.
Later, a panel discussion involving Dr. Neville Sanjana, Dr. Edward Burns and Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich discussed bioethical questions arising out of a relatively new procedure called CRISPR, a technique in which scientists could make highly directed edits of our genome.
Finally, Rabbi Ozer Glickman questioned Dr. Matthew Liao on the application of several related neurotechnologies. Both of these speakers demonstrated a sensitivity to the complicated issues that have arisen from advances in this field.
Arguably, the most striking thing about these presentations was not just the degree to which scientists are moving forward with advances in medicine, but also the bioethical and halachic questions that arise from applying these new technologies. It was an amazing, enlightening and thought provoking conference.