Scientists Seeking to Ban a Particular Genome-Editing Technique

"A technique invented in 2012 makes it possible to edit the genome precisely and with much greater ease."

#Science

Tue, Apr 7th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Citing not only the ease in which it can be done, but that the mutations are permanent and inheritable, a leading group of biologists has called for the ban on a new genome-editing technique. The procedure, which works on mice and primates, not only can be used to cure genetic diseases, it can also be used to make people prettier and smarter. Ethicists don't think that's a good idea.

Though highly efficient, the technique occasionally cuts the genome at unintended sites. The issue of how much mistargeting could be tolerated in a clinical setting is one that Dr. Doudna’s group wants to see thoroughly explored before any human genome is edited.

Scientists also say that replacing a defective gene with a normal one may seem entirely harmless but perhaps would not be.

“We worry about people making changes without the knowledge of what those changes mean in terms of the overall genome,” Dr. Baltimore said. “I personally think we are just not smart enough — and won’t be for a very long time — to feel comfortable about the consequences of changing heredity, even in a single individual.”

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