Designer babies could be approved in future, says medical ethics panel

LifestyleHealth Editing human embryos ‘morally permissible’
Posted By christinemuchira

LifestyleHealth Editing human embryos ‘morally permissible’ Posted By christinemuchira

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has decided that it could be "morally permissible" to edit embryo DNA in some cases.

It should only be permitted following rigorous public debate, and after there has been sufficient research into safety, and the possible impact on individuals, groups and society, the report said.

It is now illegal in the United Kingdom to alter the DNA of a human embryo before it is transferred to the womb via IVF treatment.

"There must be action now to support public debate and to put in place appropriate governance", the council added.

"It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself", said Karen Yeung, chair of the Nuffield working group and professor of law, ethics, and informatics at the University of Birmingham, according to The Guardian.

The NCB report doesn't say we should only make edits to embryos for therapeutic reasons, meaning changes for cosmetic reasons are still on the table, ethically speaking.

It proposed that for gene editing techniques in human reproduction to be ethically acceptable, two overarching principles should guide their use - that they should be meant to secure the welfare of the future person, and should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society.

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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.

Commenting on the council's review of genome editing, Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, described its findings as "an absolute disgrace", noting decades-long worldwide bans on eugenic genetic engineering.

'Initially this might involve preventing the inheritance of a specific genetic disorder, however if the technology develops we can see that there is potential for it to become an alternative strategy available to parents for achieving a wider range of goals'.

The Guardian said that in a new study, released on Monday in the journal Nature Biotechnology, British researchers found that Crispr-Cas9, the most popular genome editing tool, caused more damage to DNA than originally believed.

The Council stated that the use of heritable genome editing "should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society". The council said such processes "should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society".

Heritable genome editing could be used to wipe out genetic diseases in certain families by deleting or permanently changing any troublesome code in embryos, or the sperm and egg.

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