Geneticists to discuss the future of human genome editing in an international summit
Should germline modification be allowed on human embryos? This issue has sparked much debate in the scientific community. Some have been opposing the use of the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9 vehemently as the effects could be unpredictable, but others have been supportive of it as it can offer humans protection from life-threatening diseases. The debate surrounding germline modification resurfaced in April 2015 when a group of Chinese researchers confirmed that they had edited the genomes in human embryos.
To address these growing concerns, geneticists from across the globe will meet in the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, which will kick off in Washington DC today. Reportedly, this landmark meeting lasting three days is jointly organized by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society; and representatives from more than 20 countries, including India, Sweden, and Nigeria, will attend it.
At the heart of this meeting is discussion surrounding ethical and legal considerations of genome editing in humans and an evaluation of the benefits and risks of this technology. While human genome editing is considered illegal in some countries, others are more tolerant of such research. Hence, the chairperson of the summit, David Baltimore, the virologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said that, “We’re hoping to sort of take the temperature of the world.”
Researchers attending the meeting are hopeful that the exchange of perspectives will highlight global cultural differences on the issue. Moreover, it could prove to be the beginning of finding a common ground regarding the ethical and scientific ramifications of editing the human genome.
Human-genome editing summit to sample global attitudes; Accessed on December 1, 2015
Geneticists debate DNA editing in human embryos; Accessed on December 1, 2015