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WHO takes stand against embryo gene editing

The World Health Organization wants countries to put the kibosh on all research that would edit the genes of human embryos, called germline editing.

“Regulatory authorities in all countries should not allow any further work in this area until its implications have been properly considered,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in late July.

WHO recommendations don’t carry the force of law, but Carolyn Brokowski, a bioethicist at Yale Medical School, toldWired they nonetheless have weight. “Given the uncertainty at this time, it would be unfortunate for any country or institution to do anything that’s contraindicated by the WHO,” she said. “Overall, I expect it to put a damper on enthusiasm for moving forward with this technology.”

In November, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced he had used the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR to produce the first gene-edited babies, twin girls. He also claimed he modified the genes of another embryo and implanted it, but the mother had not yet given birth. China has not disclosed any further information about that baby.

Adding to the growing concern, Russian scientist Denis Rebrikov, head of a genome-editing laboratory at Russia’s largest fertility clinic in Moscow, announced in June that he plans to produce gene-edited babies by the end of the year, according to an article published in Nature.

The U.S. government has banned the Food and Drug Administration from reviewing or funding any clinical trials that involve the genetic modification of human embryos, in part because they can be passed on to future generations and lead to unknown and unintended consequences. As with all embryonic research, these experiments also involve the destruction of numerous human embryos.

Read more at World Magazine. 

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