In DepthBiomedicine

Narrow path charted for editing genes of human embryos

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Science  11 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6509, pp. 1283
DOI: 10.1126/science.369.6509.1283

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Summary

The International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing (HHGE) last week issued a report that says the technology still isn't efficient and reliable enough to allow the modification of DNA in embryos that then are implanted into their mothers. The report came in the wake of He Jiankui's widely condemned experiment that used CRISPR to edit embryos, which led to the birth of three children. The new report was written by 18 experts in science, medicine, genetics, ethics, psychology, regulation, and law who come from 10 countries. The report largely steers clear of the complex social and ethical implications of creating gene-edited babies. But it does delve into the governance of the issue, notably calling for creating an International Scientific Advisory Panel to assess proposed uses of HHGE, provide regular updates about related technologies, and review clinical outcomes if an edited embryo implanted into a mother is born. The genome-editing commission categorized potential uses of HHGE, creating a six-level hierarchy that ranges from the most to least compelling rationales to take the risk. The use of HHGE that is easiest to justify, they said, would be helping those rare couples who, even with in vitro fertilization and screening of embryos, have little or no chance of having a baby that does not inherit a genetic condition—for example, Huntington disease, cystic fibrosis, beta thalassemia—that will cause "severe morbidity or premature death."

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