Nav: Home

Guidelines for human genome editing

January 21, 2016

Human genome editing for both research and therapy is progressing, raising ethical questions among scientists around the world.

On the one hand, technical advances could enable doctors to modify germline genes - those contained in sperm and eggs - to prevent offspring from developing devastating genetic diseases. At the same time, the potential for gene editing to alter human inheritance also alarms many scientists, prompting some to argue that germline editing should be prohibited indefinitely.

As countries around the world seek to craft policy frameworks governing the powerful new genetic editing tool, policy makers need to determine "thresholds of acceptability" for using the technology, according to three researchers from the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University.

Rosario Isasi, Erika Kleiderman and Bartha Maria Knoppers suggest in a 'Perspectives' article in Science magazine that policy makers could be guided by the model that has served to develop policies governing pre-implantation genetic diagnosis after in vitro fertilization.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), used to identify genetic conditions in embryos and prevent certain diseases from being passed on to the child, "was first regarded as highly controversial and now is mainly governed within the general biomedical research context," the researchers write. Many countries allow genetic testing in pre-implantation embryos, subject to medically determined requirements such as the gravity of the genetic condition and a substantial risk of occurrence.

Robust approach

While the PGD model is still "relatively flawed and contentious," they argue that it represents "a robust approach to regulation" in the thresholds it is delineating for medical determinations and substantial risk of occurrence.

"Many questions still remain to be addressed," with regard to genome editing, the researchers add. For example: Are there potential defensible uses for genome editing so as to select, or de-select certain human traits? Are there any thresholds for non-medical interventions?

Still, they conclude, "Public acceptance may change as the benefits of genome editing emerge for disease prevention. Eventually, as we move from research to the clinic, the collective sum of individual decisions could constitute a de facto policy."
-end-


McGill University

Related Genome Editing Articles:

New technique enables safer gene-editing therapy using CRISPR
Scientists took an important step toward safer gene-editing cures for life-threatening disorders, from cancer to HIV to Huntington's disease, by developing a technique that can spot editing mistakes a popular tool known as CRISPR makes to an individual's genome.
CRISPR gene editing can cause hundreds of unintended mutations
Researchers report that CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the genome.
First US success of nonhuman primate gene editing
In a study led by Michigan State University, scientists have shown that gene editing using CRISPR/Cas9 technology can be quite effective in rhesus monkey embryos -- the first time this has been demonstrated in the US.
'Smart' cephalopods trade off genome evolution for prolific RNA editing
Octopus, squid, and cuttlefish are famous for engaging in complex behavior, from unlocking an aquarium tank and escaping to instantaneous skin camouflage to hide from predators.
Genome editing in human cells: Expert group publishes Leopoldina discussion paper
New techniques in molecular biology that enable targeted interventions in the genome are opening up promising new possibilities for research and application.
More Genome Editing News and Genome Editing Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.