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Humanity One Step Closer to Designer Babies: US Panel Clarifies Stance on Human Embryo Editing

Feb 28, 2017 09:32 AM EST
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Scientists around the world are hanging on the edge of their seats after a new report concludes that researchers should be allowed to "edit" embryos for implantation to eliminate genetic diseases. Are superbabies possible in the near future?

A report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine in Washington emphasized that a clinical trial on gene editing of human embryos "might be permitted," provided that more research will be conducted and proper restriction is implemented.

This presents an entirely new picture in the realm of gene editing, which is still a highly debated topic in the scientific community. In fact, the recent report got mixed reception from experts, some were happy while others dissatisfied, Science Magazine reports.

For instance, genome researcher Eric Lander of the Broad Institute in Cambridge told Science Magazine that the report is consistent with other reports on gene editing. Lander said it concluded with well-defined parameters of gene-editing human embryos, which some scientists already concluded may be a possibility in the future.

Read Also: Scientific Panel Confirms Support of New Technology but No Superbabies...Yet 

However, experts like Endward Lanphier said the report did not clarify if gene editing should be banned or not. Lanphier is the head of the DNA editing company Sangamo Therapeutics in California and authored a Nature commentary last 2015 that called for a moratorium in embryo editing.

The entire gene-editing debacle blew up when researchers from China reported using CRISPR -- a new gene-editing tool -- to "repair" a disease-causing gene in human embryos. CRISPR is a novel method that uses very straightforward methods to "edit" genes. Basically, they "direct" genes into cutting specific segments using a pattern it introduces into the specimen.

This led to the 2015 NAS summit, where experts discussed the future of gene editing worldwide.

Whether or not the future of gene editing has been set in stone will take decades of research and debates. However, while the question of clinical applications is still in limbo, the NAS report still endorses basic research on embryo editing on areas such as human development.

Read Also: Gene Editing to Cure Cancer: How Does It Work Against Leukemia?

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