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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

What could go wrong? U.S. National Academy of Sciences advocates use of gene editing tools to modify human DNA


A US National Academy of Sciences report has said gene-editing tools should eventually be used to modify human DNA - does their ruling open the door for future "designer babies"? Some may have reservations about that eventuality, but a bioethics professor has told Sputnik scientists have a moral duty to pursue that possibility.

In a report, the committee of scientists, entrepreneurs, ethicists and patient advocates said human genomes could in future be edited to replace faulty genetic information from a parent with a third person's healthy DNA. It stresses that the technique should only be used in the most serious cases, where no other options are available, and conducted under strict guidelines with stringent oversight.

Genome editing is achieved via a technique dubbed CRISPR — Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. It involves taking short stretches of RNA (ribonucleic acid) and tailoring them to match with DNA sequences. CRISPR is the fastest and most cost-effective method of gene editing and has been hailed as a means of significantly advancing scientific understanding of disorders such as cystic fibrosis and Huntington's Disease.

Reaction to the report from genome editing advocates has been overwhelmingly positive. Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, called the study "sensible and prudent."  

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