Global Moratorium

Late last year, Chinese scientist He Jiankui carried out a highly controversial gene-editing experiment by altering the genome of a human embryo.

In a response to growing concern over future changes or edits to hereditary genes, some of the biggest names in gene editing signed an open letter published in the journal Nature this week, calling for a global moratorium on editing DNA to make genetically modified children.

Unintended Consequences

The reasoning behind the letter, which is signed by 18 scientists from across the globe, is rooted in the fact that we simple don't know how exactly germline editing could affect the human body — or the bodies of future generations.

"By 'global moratorium,' we do not mean a permanent ban," reads the letter. "Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, [...] voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met."

An initial fixed period would allow no germline editing to allow for the creation of said framework.

International Framework

The letter points out that about 30 nations have legislation that "directly or indirectly bars all clinical uses of germline editing" already. But the international framework the letter suggests would cover all other countries as well.

The moratorium would exclude any experiments that don't intend to implant live embryos and produce children. But any experiments meant to "improve" individuals "will require extensive study" and even then "substantial uncertainty would probably remain," according to the letter.

READ MORE: CRISPR experts are calling for a global moratorium on heritable gene editing [MIT Technology Review]

More on gene editing: Tiny New CRISPR Protein Could Make Human Gene-Hacking Less Risky

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