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.