Experts at gene-editing summit warn against using CRISPR-Cas9 to cure embryos
- As the three-day international summit on gene editing comes to a close, organizers have agreed gene editing in human embryos should be used for research purposes only, and not for therapeutic purposes, such as correcting genetic diseases.
- The summit focused on CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which functions by cutting out select sections of a genome and replacing it with new DNA sequences.
- Many attendees were concerned the technology—if used to create 'designer babies'—could result in unforeseen long-term consequences and possibly alter the normal evolutionary process.
The new advances in gene-editing are surrounded by ethical questions and concerns. It is understandable and empathetic to want to replace faulty DNA before a baby is born either with a disease or a future proclivity for one.
Nonetheless, although the tools are there, they have not been well vetted with respect to long-term safety. In addition, there are concerns that parents might try to use the technology to imbue their offspring with characteristics they prefer, such as athletic ability.
The guidelines, assembled into a consensus statement, generally indicated approval to use gene-editing as part of research, as long as no live pregnancies were involved.