An international committee said on Thursday that after the genetically modified babies scandal in China two years ago, gene editing techniques on human embryos should be used until they are proven to be reliable and safe.
Experts from the National Academy of Medical Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society say that heritable genome editing for medical purposes is “not ready” to be tried safely and effectively in human embryos.
The establishment of the agency was announced after the Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui triggered an international scandal in 2018. He claimed that he was behind the world’s first baby to use Crispr for gene editing. Crispr is a powerful new tool that can Act as a kind of molecular “scissors”.
Ignoring moral and scientific norms, he created the twins of Lula and Nula, whose genomes were changed to give them immunity against HIV.
In December last year, he was sentenced to three years in prison for illegal medical treatment by a Chinese court.
This case shocked scientists around the world, raised questions about bioethics and global scientific research supervision, and once again inspired people’s concerns about parents creating so-called “design babies”.
The committee stated that the event clearly demonstrated the risk of “temporary editorial work that may cause significant harm to individuals.”
It said: “In addition, considering that genetic changes will be introduced and passed on to future generations, it is clear that the specific application of editing techniques needs to be carefully considered.”
The report said that heritable genome editing includes altering the genetic material of human eggs, sperm or any cells that lead to their development, including cells from early embryos, adding that the clinical use of the technology has been banned or banned in many countries.
The committee is composed of 18 experts from different disciplines. It does not reject the principle of human genetic modification, but aims to provide a framework for countries considering the use of the technology.
It acknowledged that gene editing “may be an important option for expectant parents who are at risk of a known genetic disease, allowing them to give birth to genetically related children without the disease and its associated morbidity and mortality.”
But it said in its recommendations that unless it has been “clearly determined” that changes can be made reliably without “unnecessary changes”, genome editing of embryos should not be used to produce pregnancy.
It says it has not yet reached the standard and requires countries to conduct further research and “extensive social dialogue” before deciding to allow genetic editing of the human genome.
Kay Davis, co-chair of the University’s Committee of Professors of Genetics, said: “These technologies should be used strictly. Based on a rigorous understanding of how pathogen mutations cause diseases, it is important to apply these technologies to medically reasonable interventions. .”Oxford university
“More research on genome editing technology in human embryos is needed to ensure that precise changes can be made without undesirable off-target effects. International cooperation and open discussions on all aspects of genome editing will be crucial.”
The report of the committee will be put into work by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has established a committee responsible for the management of genetic and non-hereditary human genome editing research and clinical applications. The WHO committee is expected to issue guidance later this year.
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