An international team of scientists and experts said genetic modification research on human embryos is essential in order to gain a better understanding of the biology of embryos.
Sterm cell researchers and bioethicists of an international network, the Hinxton Group, took the world by surprise when they publicly announced they believe genetic modifications should be allowed. Evidently, the team said they do not currently support genetically modified babies to be born. However, they acknowledge that when all governance and safety needs are met, there could be ethically acceptable uses for this practice in human reproduction. They stated that at least two decades of further debates will be required before the technology may pe applied.
Genetic modification of human embryos would allow gene-editing technology to progress rapidly and would bring great value to basic research. Advancements would also offer the possibility of practical applications.
But the statement has met with skepticism among other scientists. Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier, who was one of the members who developed the CRISPR/Cas9 DNA gene editing, declared that she does not think it is tolerable to manipulate the human genome for the purpose of modifying the genetic traits that will be transfered over generations.
As in 2015, the US refuses to provide money to genetic modification of human embryos, although they fund biomedical research. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of America’s National Institutes of Health, said that the practice “has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed” after many years of debates. Debra Matthers, scientist at the Hinxton Group, said despite the moral disagreements on the technology, discussions, debates, and research must not put to an end. She called for weighing the benefits and harms of gene-editing practices for human health research.
Robin Lovell-Badge, another member of the Hinxton Group, said that a better understanding of gene modification gained from human embryo testing could lead to major improvements in in vitro fertilization, which will significantly reduce implantation failure rates by using practices that do not involve gene-editing. “Genome-editing techniques could be used to ask how cell types are specified in the early embryo and the nature and importance of the genes involved.” Lovell-Badge added.
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