In the wake of the first ever report that scientists have edited the genomes of human embryos, experts cannot agree on whether the work was ethical.
They also disagree over how close the methods are to being an option for treating disease.
Some feel that Huang’s group has already crossed an ethical line.
“No researcher has the moral warrant to flout the globally widespread policy agreement against altering the human germline,” Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the non-profit Centre for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California, wrote in a statement.
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She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014.The CRISPR/Cas9 system was supposed to cut and replace only a gene responsible for a blood disorder.But his team reported that the genome had acquired mutations in many other places too — which could introduce further health problems in a viable embryo.Asked whether Huang’s study would have been allowed under its rules, the NIH says that it “would likely conclude it could not fund such research” and is watching the technology to see whether its rules need to be modified.Another point of contention is that Huang’s and colleagues' gene editing had a low success rate.“I don’t see any justification for a moratorium on research," he adds.Huang says that he chose non-viable embryos to avoid ethical concerns.They published a paperwas reported by Nature's news team on 22 April, confirming rumours that had been circulating for months that scientists were applying such gene-editing techniques to human embryos.In March, the rumours prompted calls for a moratorium on such research: work in human embryos is contentious because, in principle, any genetic changes will be passed to future generations, a scenario known as germline modification.To justify banning gene editing for safety reasons, he says, one would not only need to have a reason to think that it will be harmful, but also that this harm would be worse than the genetic disease itself. “People with genetic diseases are going to go on reproducing.” He likens the concerns to avoiding a surgery because of fear of complications.Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford University in California, notes that there will be different degrees of safety concerns.