Human embryo-genome editing on its way

Experiments for genome-editing in human embryos using CRISPR-Cas9 technology are now approved and on their way in Sweden, China and UK. There are  definitely preliminary research projects also being carried out in other countries. All this according to recent news featured on Nature.

There are on going discussions on whether only discarded, non-viable human embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics, should be used for research or we can learn more by using of normal embryos, which would be destroyed after, at an early stage. The international consensus seems to be (so far) that this technology rises clear ethical questions that precludes it to be used in a clinical setting. Not society or the research community are ready to modify embryos to create genetically modified human beings. Probably not less because the technology is not mature enough yet to be considered safe. But there is no question on the promises of these techniques to treat or avoid many genetic diseases.

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Once more, science seems to be going ahead of policies, as it evolves much faster than the regulations required.  I wonder if society as a whole is discussing enough about the future use of this and other sensible technologies, or it would be left to the research community to decide. The lack of quality information and open discussion can only lead to two undesirable scenarios: either scientist embark on an uncontrolled race only fueled by “who does first” or irrational fear difficult much needed research on the topic and future therapies.

Should we scientist wait for society and regulators to establish a clear international framework or should we push boundaries to open new possibilities and create the debate?

More info: M. Araki & T. Ishii Reprod. Biol. Endocrinol. 12, 108 (2014)

 

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