Should we be able to genetically design our children before they are born giving them the eye and hair color we prefer, deciding their sex and height, and even genetically manipulating their intelligence? Most, including top scientists and genetic counselors, say no. But what if the genetic manipulation was done in order to cure a debilitating or potentially fatal illness before the individual was even born? And what if this one genetic treatment could save the individuals descendants from inheriting the disorder, too? A 2018 meeting of non-scientists in Germany indicated that public opinion may be moving in the yes direction.
Though gene editing technology isnt yet at the point where we can genetically alter unborn individuals at the clinical level by applying gene editing tools like CRISPR/Cas9 to embryos, sperm or egg cells the technology is rapidly advancing.
Debate over the subject was rekindled last year, when a Chinese researcher announced that he used CRISPR to create the worlds first gene-edited babies. According to the Associated Press, He Jiankui said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments. The treatment was designed to protect the children of an HIV-positive parent by disabling a gene that would have allowed the virus to enter their cells. The trial resulted in one pregnancy twins who were born in November. According to the Associated Press, the researcher said:
I feel a strong responsibility that its not just to make a first, but also make it an example. Society will decide what to do next.
The gene-editing community has grappled with the unexpected announcement in the following months. It was not well received by other researchers, with many of them condemning the action. Feng Zhang, one of the inventors of CRISPR, called for an moratorium on gene-edited babies. Zhang wrote:
Not only do I see this as risky, but I am also deeply concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding this trial. All medical advances, gene editing or otherwise and particularly those that impact vulnerable populations, should be cautiously and thoughtfully tested, discussed openly with patients, physicians, scientists, and other community members, and implemented in an equitable way.
Its not unusual to see articles and reports in the media focusing on the worst possible scenarios when it comes to genome editing, as is often the case with new or particularly disruptive technologies. The mere mention of the topic tends to incite fears of a New Eugenics master race or exacerbation of medical inequalities along class lines where the poor are barred from genetic interventions and the rich have easy access. Still others, such as some Catholic and Muslim groups, worry that genetic manipulation of any sort is interfering with divine plans.
These kinds of fears have been gradually loosening their hold on our imaginations, while the coolly-measured possibilities of gene editing nothing more than a new and innovative medical tool are winning over. And as with any new technology, it comes with a particular set of risks and benefits that must be taken into consideration. The slow change in public attitude toward gene editing is evident in groups such as Germanys Citizens Delphi Germline Therapy project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
After debating detailed information on the risks and benefits over the course of a few months, and undergoing a rigorous participation process that combined aspects of Citizens Jury with the Delphi survey method, the group has called for the loosening of bans on germline gene editing research in Germany. Their final report was presented at Berlin Science Week in late 2018. And though their verdict only applies to the current ban in Germany, which includes a ban on basic research in germline cells, the groups decision could have an impact on regulations around the world. Indeed, the participants were keen on having Germany play a more active role in the development of international gene editing guidelines.
Regarding the Citizens Jury and Delphi survey methods used, Ralf Grtker, who developed and carried out the project in collaboration with the Department of Science Communication at the Institute for German Studies at KIT, stated, The process is geared towards working on a complex topic with a group of laypeople, empower them to make an informed judgment, and eventually reach recommendations for politicians. Though the group only consisted of 26 German citizens, the group was representative of the population, and the topic of gene editing was thoroughly investigated from a variety of angles.
The group acknowledged the risks of genome editing, such as unknown and off-target effects, but ultimately agreed that the way forward was to open the doors to germline gene editing research at the national and global levels. Their conclusions also echoed those made by genetics experts in a position statement published in the August 2017 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, which stated, At this time, given the nature and number of unanswered scientific, ethical, and policy questions, it is inappropriate to perform germline gene editing that culminates in human pregnancy.
But to answer those scientific, ethical, and policy questions, basic research is crucial. And lines of communication need to be open between countries, and between scientists and non-scientists. Without these measures, misunderstandings and missed clinical opportunities will proliferate, along with the dangers of underground gene editing and gene editing tourism. Several governments around the world are grappling with heated and unresolved debates regarding germline gene editing, which in several cases appear to be impeding research.
Though a great deal of cooperation and knowledge exchange is taking place between countries, other nations have yet to move away from all-out bans on germline gene editing. Canada, for example, has criminalized germline gene editing under the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Penalties for the crime of germline gene tampering include a $500,000 CAD fine and up to 10 years of jail time.
Following a presentation at the annual Till & McCulloch Meetings of stem-cell and regenerative-medicine researchers, Bartha Knoppers, a health policy expert at McGill University in Montreal, said, Canadas policy has simply shut down discussion (about gene editing). We need to start to talk. Some Canadian scientists worry that Canada is lagging behind in gene editing research, unable to fully participate in the global conversation taking place on this important subject.
At the other end of the spectrum are countries like Japan, where a proposal allowing for the use of gene editing tools in human embryos has been drafted. The new guidelines would restrict manipulation of human embryos for reproduction, though this restriction would likely not be legally binding.
Though several countries have formal bans in place restricting germline gene editing, many of these same countries allow for somatic (or non-reproductive) gene editing applications, which is when gene editing tools are applied to adult cells. Somatic gene edits are not passed on to future generations, so there is less concern about the possible repercussions.
A version of this article previously ran on the GLP on Nov 27, 2018.
Kristen Hovet covers genetics, medical innovations, and the intersection of sociology and culture. Follow her on her website or Twitter @kristenhovet
Here is the original post:
Brave new world? Why the public might be ready for gene-edited babies - Genetic Literacy Project
- Global Tooth Regeneration Market : Industry Analysis and Forecast (2020-2027)-by Type, Application, Population Demographics and Region. - Morning Tick - July 6th, 2020
- REGENERATIVE MEDICINE MARKET ALONG WITH COVID-19 IMPACT ANALYSIS AND CLINICAL OUTLOOK 2022 | STRYKER CORPORATION, ZIMMER BIOMET HOLDINGS INC.,... - July 2nd, 2020
- Outlook on the Worldwide Regenerative Medicine Industry to 2024 - Rising Global Healthcare Expenditure Presents Opportunities - GlobeNewswire - June 25th, 2020
- Estrogen induces dynamic ER and RING1B recruitment to control gene and enhancer activities in luminal breast cancer - Science Advances - June 8th, 2020
- Participation of Somatic Stem Cells, Labeled by a Unique ... - June 5th, 2020
- COVID-19 Impact on Global Cell Therapy Industry 2020: Market Trends, Size, Share, Applications, SWOT Analysis by Top Key Players and Forecast Report... - June 5th, 2020
- A caveolin binding motif in Na/K-ATPase is required for stem cell differentiation and organogenesis in mammals and C. elegans - Science Advances - June 1st, 2020
- Global Tooth Regeneration Market : Industry Analysis And Forecast (2020-2027) - Azizsalon News - May 14th, 2020
- Somatic Stem Cells - Methods and Protocols | Shree Ram ... - May 13th, 2020
- What is the Value of iPSC Technology in Cardiac... - The Doctor Weighs In - May 7th, 2020
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Latest Trends and Analysis Future Growth Study by 2029 Cole Reports - Cole of Duty - May 4th, 2020
- Global Zinc Finger Nuclease Technology Market to Generate Lucrative Revenue Prospects for Manufacturers After the End of COVID-19 Crisis and Forecast... - May 4th, 2020
- Normal human uterus is colonised by clones with cancer-driving mutations that arise early in life, study finds - Cambridge Network - April 24th, 2020
- Global Tooth Regeneration Market: Industry Analysis and Forecast (2020-2027) - Publicist360 - April 17th, 2020
- Scientists 'Reset' The Age of Stem Cells From a Supercentenarian Who Lived to 114 - ScienceAlert - March 25th, 2020
- Forty Seven and Rocket Pharmaceuticals Announce Research Collaboration for Fanconi Anemia - BioSpace - March 11th, 2020
- Mapping the structure and biological functions within mesenchymal bodies using microfluidics - Science Advances - March 4th, 2020
- Researchers ID Protein-Protein Interaction That Promotes Cancer Development - BioSpace - February 28th, 2020
- Dental Regenerative Market Size, Share 2020 Regional Trend, Future Growth, Leading Players Updates, Industry Demand, Current and Future Plans by... - February 28th, 2020
- Global Gene Therapy Market to Cross Around USD 6892 Million By 2027 - Global Newspaper 24 - February 17th, 2020
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Predicted to Witness Surge in the Near Future2018 2028 - TechNews.mobi - February 15th, 2020
- Global Gene Therapy Market Worth Reach USD 6892 Million By 2027 - TheInfobiz - February 12th, 2020
- New research shows what happens to your lung cells once you quit smoking - Daily Gaming Worlld - February 9th, 2020
- Global Gene Therapy Market to Cross USD 6892 Million By 2027 - TheInfobiz - February 6th, 2020
- Scientists finally find link between stress and grey hair - nation.co.ke - January 31st, 2020
- Global Gene Therapy Market is Growing to Reach 6892 Million By 2027 - Market Research News 24 - January 29th, 2020
- Going Gray Too Soon? Scientists Say It Really May Be Due to Stress - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News - January 25th, 2020
- Allele and Astellas Enter into an Expanded License for the Development of iPSC Lines - Business Wire - January 20th, 2020
- Duke researchers land $6M in federal grants to advance gene editing - WRAL Tech Wire - January 5th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market- What Are The Main Factors That Contributing Towards Industry Growth? - Industry Mirror - December 31st, 2019
- What a time to be alive: Reproductive breakthroughs of the 2010s that changed life as we know it - FOX 10 News Phoenix - December 29th, 2019
- Gene Therapy Market 2019-2027 / Trends, Growth, Opportunities And Top Key - Market Research Sheets - December 27th, 2019
- Cell Therapy Industry Applications 2019-Size by Type (Allogenic Therapies), by Technique (Stem Cell Therapy), Global Market Growth by Demand Analysis... - December 13th, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapies Market research Likely to Emerge over a Period of 2015-2025 - PharmiWeb.com - December 13th, 2019
- Orgenesis and Theracell to launch point-of-care cell and gene therapy centers in HYGEIA Group"s hospitals - Proactive Investors USA & Canada - December 6th, 2019
- Rocket Pharmaceuticals Announces First Patient Treated in Global Registrational Phase 2 Study of RP-L102 Process B for Fanconi Anemia - BioSpace - December 6th, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy Industry 2019 Global Market Size, Trends, Revenue, Growth Prospects, Key Companies and Forecast by 2023 - Techi Labs - December 6th, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapies Market research to Witness a Healthy Growth during 2015 2025 - Lake Shore Gazette - November 25th, 2019
- Osteonecrosis Treatment Market Benefit and Volume with Status and Prospect to 2026 - Crypto Journal - November 21st, 2019
- US Nobel laureates tell us what they think about cancer research, moonshots, the dark side, funding, meritocracy, herd mentality, Trump, and joy - The... - November 21st, 2019
- Youngstown State, IBM to offer high-tech training in the Mahoning Valley - Crain's Cleveland Business - November 15th, 2019
- A short guide to regulation for disruptive technologies - Lexology - November 14th, 2019
- Cereal rust could lead to new wheat threat - Farm Weekly - November 14th, 2019
- Tooth Regeneration Industry 2019 Research on Market Sales, Revenue, Top Companies and Future Development - TheFinanceTime - November 11th, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy Market : Opportunities and Challenges - MENAFN.COM - November 3rd, 2019
- Cell Therapy Market Forecast to 2025 | Analysis by Regions, Type, Application, and Top Key Players like Dendreon, Mesoblast, Vericel, Antibe... - November 3rd, 2019
- Detection of Latent HSCs Fated to Progress to Blast Phase in Myelofibrosis Patients Several Years Before Blast Transformation - DocWire News - October 25th, 2019
- Stem cell therapy is for animals too - SciTech Europa - October 21st, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy Industry 2019 Global Market Size, Trends, Revenue, Growth Prospects, Key Companies and Forecast by 2023 - Markets Gazette - October 17th, 2019
- Significant Growth Foreseen by Stem Cell Therapies Market During 2015 2025 - Rapid News Network - September 22nd, 2019
- Blast Off With Rocket Pharmaceuticals - Seeking Alpha - September 22nd, 2019
- Zinc Finger Nuclease Technology Market Estimated to Discern 2X Expansion by 2025 - Commerce Gazette - September 22nd, 2019
- Tooth Regeneration Market : Huge Growth Opportunity by Trend, Key Players and Forecast 2026 - TodayTimes - September 22nd, 2019
- Direct generation of human naive induced pluripotent stem ... - June 5th, 2019
- Somatic Stem Cells and Cancer - Stem Cell Centers ... - May 4th, 2019
- Difference Between Embryonic and Somatic Stem Cells ... - May 3rd, 2019
- Mosaic (genetics) - Wikipedia - March 8th, 2019
- What is the Difference Between Embryonic and Somatic Stem Cells - February 27th, 2019
- Somatic Cells - Definition and Examples | Biology Dictionary - November 14th, 2018
- Stem Cell Quick Reference - Learn.Genetics - September 9th, 2018
- Where Do Stem Cells Come From? - verywellhealth.com - July 2nd, 2018
- What Is Another Name for Somatic Stem Cells and What Do ... - June 22nd, 2018
- Difference Between Somatic Cells and Gametes ... - June 19th, 2018
- Skin graft gene therapy could treat obesity and diabetes - ResearchGate (blog) - August 3rd, 2017
- Cloning - Wikipedia - December 7th, 2016
- Characterization of Regenerative Phenotype of Unrestricted ... - December 1st, 2016
- Somatic cell nuclear transfer - Wikipedia - November 25th, 2016
- Somatic cell - Wikipedia - November 2nd, 2016
- Embryonic and Somatic Stem Cells, Whats the Difference? - November 2nd, 2016
- Adult stem cell - Wikipedia - October 21st, 2016
- Somatic stem cells in the human endometrium. - October 7th, 2016
- Glossary | stemcells.nih.gov - September 17th, 2016
- Stem Cell Basics IV. | stemcells.nih.gov - September 17th, 2016
- Human embryonic stem cells derived by somatic cell nuclear ... - August 3rd, 2015
- Comparative proteomic analysis of human somatic cells ... - July 20th, 2015
- Somatic cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - July 15th, 2015
- somatic stem cell - Learn Genetics - July 2nd, 2015
- What is the difference between embryonic and somatic stem ... - June 11th, 2015
- Redox Signaling and Stem Cell Function - Dirk Bohmann - June 2nd, 2015
- Adult stem cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - June 1st, 2015