In Brief
Amid rumors that precision gene-editing techniques have been used to modify the DNA of human embryos, researchers have called for a moratorium on the use of the technology in reproductive cells.
  • Edward Lanphier, chairman of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine in Washington DC, and four co-authors call on scientists to agree not to modify human embryos — even for research. They fear that attempts to produce ‘designer babies’ by applying the methods to embryos will create a backlash against all use of the technology.
  • Known as germline modification, edits to embryos, eggs or sperm are of particular concern because a person created using such cells would have had their genetic make-up changed without consent, and would permanently pass down that change to future generations.
  • As an example, Geneticist Xingxu Huang of ShanghaiTech University in China, is currently seeking permission from his institution’s ethics committee to try genetically modifying discarded human embryos. In February 2014, he reported using a gene-editing technique to modify embryos that developed into live monkeys. Human embryos would not be allowed to develop to full term in his experiments.