Scientific leaders advise we not mess with the human genome, at least not yet

It’s the stuff of science fiction, and it’s very nearly the stuff of science fact. But a team of international experts think we need to hold off before diving into the deep end of the human gene pool.

International experts advised, following a meeting at the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, that it would "irresponsible" to make changes to the human genome at this time. The reason? It’s hard to say what long-term effect it  could have on the future generations who might inherit those intentional changes.

Though the summit determined it wouldn’t be prudent right now, the official statement recommended that the issue be revisited on a regular basis. Here’s an excerpt:

“It would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use of germline editing unless and until (i) the relevant safety and efficacy issues have been resolved, based on appropriate understanding and balancing of risks, potential benefits, and alternatives, and (ii) 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.”

This is a delicate issue, and one we’ll almost certainly be exploring more in the years to come. The prospects of gene editing could cure diseases, and eventually even let us choose everything from eye color to height while a baby is still in the womb. But, by mucking around in the stuff that makes us human, you run the risk of doing irreparable damage to mankind.

So, yeah, no easy answers.


(Via The Verge)

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