Experts Denounce Practice of Human Gene Modification

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The news that Chinese scientists have modified the genes of human embryos have caused much stir across the world with researchers criticizing the approach and calling for denouncing the practice. The study was publised on April 18 in the journal Protein & Cell. It shows that they made use of  a genetic engineering technique that is called CRISPR in order to cut out a faulty gene and replace it with a healthy one in human embryos. This technique has the potential of permanently altering human DNA and the changes would be passed to several generations.

“This news emphasises the need for an immediate global ban on the creation of GM designer babies,” said Human Genetics Alert Director, Dr David King.

“It is critical that we avoid a eugenic future in which the rich can buy themselves a baby with built-in genetic advantages.

“It is entirely unnecessary since there are already many ethical ways to avoid thalassaemia. This research is a classic example of scientific careerism – assuring one’s place in the history books even though the research is unnecessary and unethical.”

The team used a gene-editing technique that is known as CRISPR/Cas9 that was discovered by scientists as MIT. This practice was severely criticized by some researchers.

Prof Shirley Hodgson, Professor of Cancer Genetics, St George’s University of London, said: “I think that this is a significant departure from currently accepted research practice. Can we be certain that the embryos that the researchers were working on were indeed non-viable?

“Any proposal to do germline genetic manipulation should be very carefully considered by international regulatory bodies before it should be considered as a serious research prospect.”

“Their study should give pause to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes during IVF. This is an unsafe procedure and should not be practiced at this time, and perhaps never”, said George Q Daley, a stem cell researcher at Harvard, referring to in vitro fertilization.