Daily Management Review

Gene Editing of Human Embryo Could Find ‘Moral’ Grounds: UK’s Ethics Council


07/18/2018


A new report on the ethical aspect of gene alteration in human reproduction sparked mixed remarks.



An ethics panel of Britain thinks that altering DNA in the human embryos with the help of gene editing technologies could be “morally permissible” as long as its social impacts are “carefully considered”.
 
The “Nuffield Council on Bioethics” of the U.K. stated that time is not ripe yet for any regulatory changes for accommodating “human genome editing” use in the correction of genetic faults; however, in the future the same should be kept in the legislation’s rulebook. The Council is an “independent body” that scrutinises “ethical issues raised by new developments in biology and medicine”.
 
The Council has also called upon ethical experts and scientists from the U.S., Europe, China and “elsewhere” for engaging into “public debate about what human genome editing might mean”. The gene editing tools can bring in “radical new approach to reproductive choices”, whereby significantly affecting the individual along with the society at large. According to the Council:
“There must be action now to support public debate and to put in place appropriate governance.”
 
CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene editing technique which allows “deliberate alteration of a targeted DNA sequence in a living cell”; in theory these technologies could assist “human reproduction” as the DNA at the embryo stage could be edited before “it is transferred to the womb”.
 
Currently, the British regulation finds gene editing illegal, while the expert at Nuffield panel thinks that with time this could become an available option for parents to “influence the genetic characteristics of their future child”. In the words of the Professor Karen Yeung, from Birmingham University of Britain:
“Whilst there is still uncertainty over the sorts of things genome editing might be able to achieve, or how widely its use might spread, we have concluded that the potential use of genome editing to influence the characteristics of future generations is not unacceptable in itself”.
 
However, before legalising gene editing “a number of stringent measures” are needed to be put in place which will ensure ethical acceptance of “genome editing proceeds”. In order to limit “gene editing techniques in human reproduction” within ethical acceptance “two overarching principles” need to be established which will “secure the welfare of the future person” besides not increasing “disadvantage, discrimination or division in society”.
 
The “professor and executive chair of Britain’s Medical Research Council”, Fiona Watt welcomed the report and saying that researchers need to “continue to assess safety and feasibility before gene edits that can be passed across generations are permitted in people.”
 
On the other hand, Human Genetics Alert’s David King found the report to give approval sign for “designer babies”, thus terming the same as “an absolute disgrace”. He said:
“We must have an international ban on creating genetically engineered babies”.
 
 
 
References:
reuters.com







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