Scientists and ethicists from multiple countries called for an international moratorium on editing the genetic makeup of embryos.
Theirtoday in the journal Nature comes four months after researchers around the world were shocked by reports that a scientist in China had edited the embryos of twin girls who were later born with the alterations. The groups called for an international agreement on whether and how to edit embryos and inheritable DNA.
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Several U.S. scientists signed the editorial but accompanyingco-authored by NIH Director Francis Collins said the institutes “support” a global moratorium. “This unexpected and unwelcome revelation roiled the scientific community and the general public, and crystalized the need for guiding international principles,” Collins said in a statement. He condemned the practice when the births were first announced.
The Chinese doctor, He Jiankui, claimed in November that he manipulated the embryos with a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR to make them immune to HIV infection.
Editing human embryo genes is banned in the U.S. because of concerns about side effects and unknown ways that changes can be passed to future generations.
Several U.S. companies are focused on using CRISPR technology to edit adult genes to treat rare diseases, cancers and blood conditions like sickle cell disease, but those changes would not be heritable. The therapies are still in development, and none have been approved for market. FDA late last yearthe first in-human CRISPR trial, a joint effort from Editas and Allergan to correct a gene that causes blindness.