White House: Human germline editing 'a line that should not be crossed'
- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), along with its National Academy of Medicine (NAM), is convening a meeting in which researchers and ethicists will discuss gene-editing technologies.
- One major objective of the meeting is to discuss the implications of germline gene-editing technologies in both research and clinical settings.
- The White House's Office of Science and Technology stated in a press release: "The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time."
The discussion around the ethics of human gene-editing dates back to the 1970s when scientists called for a temporary moratorium on gene-splicing technology. Their concerns were that without some type of soul-searching, the technology could be used in an unethical way—and the clinical consequences might not be understood until it is too late to reverse course.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Chinese researchers have successfully used the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique on non-viable embryos, raising ethical questions in the global scientific community.
Nonetheless, experts at the Office of Science and Technology concede that genome editing technogy has helped to advance the standard of care, with respect to vaccines against infectious diseases, early disease diagnostics and other health conditions. Still, there are concerns about genome-editing experiments in human embryos.
The Office of Science and Technology is encouraging a full discussion of germline editing, and at the same time encouraging meeting attendees and others to explore alternative technologies that do not require germine alteration to achieve the intended therapeutic/medical goals.
- White House Office of Science and Technology A Note on Genome Editing