Scientists call for ban on gene editing

  • Scientists call for ban on gene editing

Scientists call for ban on gene editing

Wednesday's call for a moratorium came from 18 researchers from seven countries.

An worldwide group of scientists and ethicists on Wednesday called for a temporary global ban on making babies with edited genes.

Signatories included Eric S. Lander, a geneticist and the founder of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Feng Zhang, the co-creator of CRISPR-Cas9; and Canadian bioethicist Francoise Baylis. "What we do know is that this technology does work on humans, it was just done in a way that isn't acceptable".

It's the latest reaction to last November's announcement that gene-edited twins had been born in China, which was widely criticized. Last month, the Chinese government unveiled new rules to supervise biotech research, including stiff sanctions for scientists who break the rules.

Wholesale endorsement of the proposal is not forthcoming from the wider scientific community.

At the time, Doudna told Bloomberg she was "horrified" and disappointed in the way He used the technology, saying it was inappropriate and not medically necessary.

The letter advises that there should be a fixed period where no germline editing should be allowed.

During this period, the scientists recommend discussions on the "technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical, and moral issues" of germline editing that will lead to an global framework governing the technology.

Keeping the technology in check would also provide breathing space allowing worldwide guidelines to be established, it is claimed. Earlier committees and commissions that have debated the prospect of editing human germ lines-which means sperm, eggs, or embryos-have stated the technology wasn't yet safe or reliable enough to do this, but pointedly did not call for a moratorium. It would not cover gene editing done in embryos for research purposes that would not lead to a live birth. They pointed to the gene SLC39A8, which decreases a person's risk of Parkinson's disease and hypertension but increases their risk of developing schizophrenia, Crohn's disease and obesity. "Individuals with genetic differences or disabilities can experience stigmatization and discrimination".

They point out that societal impacts of clinical germline editing "could be considerable", with parents being put under "powerful peer and marketing pressure" to enhance their children. Children with edited DNA could be affected psychologically in detrimental ways. Many religious groups and others are likely to find the idea of redesigning the fundamental biology of humans morally troubling.

O'Neill was skeptical for yet another reason: "There has never been a broad societal consensus about anything in any country, not even the allocation of human rights, so expecting this as a benchmark for clinical adoption of germline therapy is unrealistic". Afterward, nations could either allow specific applications of germline editing under certain conditions, continue the moratorium or ban it entirely.

Around 30 countries, including the United Kingdom, now have legislation that directly or indirectly bars all germline gene editing outside the laboratory.

The signatories-including scientists, ethicists, and some inventors of the gene-editing tool Crisper-wrote that they do not want a permanent ban, but a period of around five years in which governments publicly declare they will not allow the clinical use of human germline editing (the editing of sperm, eggs, or embryos).