Scientists have been given the go ahead for gene editing
Two major science bodies in the US have said gene modification should be allowed if it prevents disease from being passed down from parent to offspring.
The National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine have released a landmark report sanctioning the medical research that will allow scientists to modify human egg cells, sperm or embryos by removing or adding different DNA.
Gene editing is already practised, but only on non-heritable living cells.
However, the new move will allow scientists to edit the human germline – DNA which is inherited.
Germline gene editing is a "realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration”
The report says germline gene editing is a "realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration”, but only when the technology is up to scratch, which, they state, it is not yet.
Professor Alta Charo, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, said on behalf of the involved institutions: "Human genome editing holds tremendous promise for understanding, treating or preventing many devastating genetic diseases, and for improving treatment of many other illnesses.
The move has been met by critics
"However, genome editing to enhance traits or abilities beyond ordinary health raises concerns about whether the benefits can outweigh the risks, and about fairness if available only to some people.”
Nonetheless, the move has been met by critics.
Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California, said: “Once you approve any form of human germline modification you really open the door to all forms.
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“I’m feeling very unsettled and disappointed by what they are recommending.”
She went on to tell NPR: "[W]e're going to be creating a world in which the already privileged and affluent can use these high-tech procedures to make children [with] biological advantages.
"And the scenario that plays out is not a pretty one."