Science not yet ready for CRISPR gene-edited babies, US-UK commission concludes

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Credit: Molly Ferguson/STAT

[T]he science [behind gene edited babies] isn’t advanced enough to ensure safety, says an international panel of experts who also mapped a pathway for any countries that want to consider it.

Mainstream scientists condemned his experiment as unethical, and He was sentenced to three years in prison for violating Chinese laws. The experts commission was formed in the aftermath by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society.

The group doesn’t take a stance on whether editing embryos is ethical, just whether it’s ready scientifically—and deems that it’s not. A separate panel formed by the World Health Organization is to report on ethics issues later this year.

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The commission does say that if a country allows this, it should be limited to cases where people have no or very poor options for having a child without the disease. Initial attempts should be for serious diseases caused by a single gene, such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, the blood disorder beta thalassemia and Tay-Sachs, a neurological disease, the report says.

Altering genes to try to enhance traits such as muscle mass or height is not endorsed.

It gives “much better clarity about what it would take to go forward and that now is not the time,” said Jeffrey Kahn, bioethics chief at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the panel.

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