Scientists split over value of moratorium on editing the human germline

In a commentary in Nature several leading scientists have called for a global moratorium on heritable genome editing.

This would not be a permanent ban but an international agreement not to greenlight germline editing leading to pregnancies “unless certain conditions are met”.

The proposal was motivated by the outcry following an experiment by Chinese scientist He Jiankui which resulted in two babies whose germline had been edited.

One of the inventors of CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technique, Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, told STAT that she supports “strict regulation that precludes use” of germline editing until scientific, ethical, and societal issues are resolved.

In fact, the scientists proposing the moratorium were by no means categorical about the fundamental question of the ethics of germline editing.

Certainly, the framework we are calling for will place major speed bumps in front of the most adventurous plans to re-engineer the human species.

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