Gene-edited babies: Current techniques not safe, say experts

The technology could one day prevent parents from passing on heritable diseases to children, but The technology could one day prevent parents from passing on heritable diseases to children, but

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were born in China in November 2018. The scientist responsible was jailed, amid a fierce global backlash.

The committee was set up in response.

Most countries have regulations in place preventing babies being born after gene-editing, but the incident led to calls for strong international consensus.

Gene-editing could potentially help avoid a range of heritable diseases by deleting or changing troublesome coding in embryos.

But experts worry that modifying the genome of an embryo could cause unintended harm, not only to the individual but also future generations that inherit these same changes.

One example of current technology is CRISPR, a biological system for altering DNA discovered in 2012.

CRISPR scans the genome looking for the right location, and then uses "molecular scissors" to snip through the faulty DNA.

While effective in the lab, the process is less than perfect and can cut out too much DNA.

These unwanted edits could alter other important genes - inadvertently triggering cancer, for example.

But arguably, the most controversial aspect of gene-editing concerns the potential to introduce changes to the germline - DNA alterations that would pass down the generations.

The commission involves experts from 10 different countries, including members of the UK's Royal Society and the US National Academy of Medicine.

It made several recommendations, including:

Sarah Norcross, at Progress Educational Trust, said while important lessons needed to be learnt from the world's first genome-edited babies, the report went too far in the other direction.

Read the full story at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54014969

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