A panel of experts has published new gene-editing standards that are being touted as the first to be released by a major scientific society. The recommendations are designed to help prevent the misuse of genetic technology, which could lead to dystopian scenarios where humans are genetically engineered into different species or have their intelligence artificially enhanced.
The WHO Panel Issues Gene-Editing Standards Aimed at Averting DNA Dystopia is a piece of news that was published on the channel 4 how healthy is your gut.
Two new studies from a World Health Organization expert advisory group propose the adoption of worldwide guidelines to avoid unethical, inequitable, and possibly hazardous applications of Crispr and other gene-editing technologies.
The papers urge for worldwide standards to be developed, an international register of gene-editing research to be established, and a mechanism for whistleblowers to report problems. Their publication comes more than two years after a Chinese researcher sparked uproar across the world by revealing that he had used Crispr to create the first gene-edited infants.
The committee, which included ethicists, policymakers, and lawyers, stated in the reports that the use of gene editing had changed dramatically since they began developing a governing framework in December 2018, and that recent successes in altering the DNA of people with fatal diseases had raised ethical concerns.
The reports outlined a number of scenarios that the proposed strategies could help to avoid, including conducting gene-editing trials in low-income countries to develop therapies that would eventually be too expensive for all but the wealthiest to afford; unscrupulous clinics offering unsafe or ineffective gene-editing services to people desperate to overcome potentially life-threatening conditions; and an unregulated market for gene-editing services.
Françoise Baylis, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and a specialist on the ethics of human genome editing, stated, “We want people to look at what is occurring today and what we need to do to influence the way the study will continue.”
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, stated at a news conference in Geneva on Monday that, given how quickly the environment is changing, she expects WHO to revisit the recommendations in three years “to evaluate what has changed and whether things are getting better.”
The WHO committee isn’t the first to express concerns about the use of gene editing to modify human eggs, sperm, or embryos (germ-line editing) or to fix defective DNA in individuals with fatal illnesses like cancer and sickle cell anemia, a hereditary blood condition.
In late 2018, Chinese researcher He Jiankui revealed that his work has resulted in the birth of human twins from embryos whose DNA had been changed using Crispr technology.
Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press photo
Last year, an international committee led by the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of the United Kingdom released a report saying that gene editing in human embryos is still too dangerous. The study found that even when technology improves, it should be restricted to the most severe diseases at first.
The new studies, according to Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and a member of the panel that produced last year’s study, set out problems that need to be addressed, but nations can’t always be relied on to collaborate. “Who is accountable for accomplishing it and who is going to stand up is still a pretty open issue in my mind,” Dr. Kahn added.
After Chinese researcher He Jiankui revealed that his research had resulted in the birth of human twins from embryos whose DNA had been changed using the Crispr gene-editing technique, the WHO advisory group was formed in late 2018. In 2019, a Chinese court convicted Dr. He guilty of unlawful medical procedures and sentenced him to three years in jail.
The twins and a third kid born as a result of Dr. He’s experiment are unknown.
Another lady has been implanted with a genetically edited embryo, according to He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who claims to have orchestrated the birth of the first two genetically customized people. At a gene-editing symposium in Hong Kong, the doctor was chastised by his colleagues. EPA photo (Video from November 28, 2018)
Crispr has recently achieved several significant milestones. Last December, researchers revealed that gene-edited cells helped patients with two uncommon hereditary blood diseases with significant pain and other symptoms. Researchers announced last month that they have successfully reduced levels of a disease-causing protein in six individuals with a hereditary liver condition. Other gene-editing clinical studies are in the pipeline, including one for cardiovascular disease.
The committee recognized in the new findings that it cannot enforce the suggested criteria and that establishing a mechanism for reporting potentially unethical research would require “a cultural shift.” While countries are still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of the recommendations, such as support for a newly established registry to track gene-editing trials and a proposed new registry focused on gene-editing research studies, will necessitate additional financial and staffing resources from WHO and other organizations.
Dr. Baylis, on the other hand, believes that such measures are necessary to guarantee that human gene editing is done fairly. “The benefit of research and technology will accrue to an elite few, and other people will be systematically disadvantaged,” she stated otherwise. There has to be a focus on the common good.”
The Ethical Consequences of Gene Editing
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The Gene-Editing Standards Aimed at Averting DNA Dystopia is a recent issue that has been taking the world by storm. WHO released new gene-editing standards that are aimed at avoiding the misuse of gene-editing technologies. Reference: gene editing in humans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who sets gene editing standards?
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) sets gene editing standards.
Who regulates human genome editing?
The United States government regulates human genome editing.
What are the ethical issues of gene editing?
There are many ethical issues associated with gene editing. The most important issue is the potential for the loss of biodiversity, which would result in a drastic change to the ecosystem and would have consequences on human health.
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