Human Gene Editing important issues and need for appropriate regulatory oversight

Scientists urge caution on human gene editing

image of statue Human-Gene-Editing
The 2015 International Summit on Human Gene Editing concluded that it would be “irresponsible” to use a powerful tool for editing human genes until more is known about the consequences and ethics of passing genetic changes to future generations.

Abstract – 2015 International Summit Statement

Clinical Use: Germline.

Gene editing might also be used, in principle, to make genetic alterations in gametes or embryos, which will be carried by all of the cells of a resulting child and will be passed on to subsequent generations as part of the human gene pool. Examples that have been proposed range from avoidance of severe inherited diseases to ‘enhancement’ of human capabilities. Such modifications of human genomes might include the introduction of naturally occurring variants or totally novel genetic changes thought to be beneficial.

Germline editing poses many important issues, including:

  1. the risks of inaccurate editing (such as off-target mutations) and incomplete editing of the cells of early-stage embryos (mosaicism);
  2. the difficulty of predicting harmful effects that genetic changes may have under the wide range of circumstances experienced by the human population, including interactions with other genetic variants and with the environment;
  3. the obligation to consider implications for both the individual and the future generations who will carry the genetic alterations;
  4. the fact that, once introduced into the human population, genetic alterations would be difficult to remove and would not remain within any single community or country;
  5. the possibility that permanent genetic ‘enhancements’ to subsets of the population could exacerbate social inequities or be used coercively;
  6. and the moral and ethical considerations in purposefully altering human evolution using this technology.

It would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use of germline editing unless and until

  1. the relevant safety and efficacy issues have been resolved, based on appropriate understanding and balancing of risks, potential benefits, and alternatives,
  2. and there is broad societal consensus about the appropriateness of the proposed application.

Moreover, any clinical use should proceed only under appropriate regulatory oversight. At present, these criteria have not been met for any proposed clinical use: the safety issues have not yet been adequately explored; the cases of most compelling benefit are limited; and many nations have legislative or regulatory bans on germline modification. However, as scientific knowledge advances and societal views evolve, the clinical use of germline editing should be revisited on a regular basis.

Sources and More information

Author: DES Daughter

Activist, blogger and social media addict committed to shedding light on a global health scandal and dedicated to raise DES awareness.

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