Earlier this week, the Human Gene-Editing Initiative released an official report. This gave its cautious mark of approval for using the gene editing therapy, but only in a number of very specific cases.
Human gene editing is one of science’s most controversial topics. The technic seems to be closer within our reach than ever before. Especially as CRIPSR-Cas9, a gene editing tool, has expanded its area of use. And scientists have already used the gene editing technique in altering plants and animals.
But its human-related use raises quite its share of questions. Some consider it a breakthrough. As such, they believe that a gene editing therapy could be used. But only under very specific rules.
Others, on the contrary, see it as just too risky. The matter carries many ethical and moral dilemmas. And it may also lead to unforeseen results. As such, they argue that the risks are higher than the potential benefits.
All these factors led to the formation of an advisory board. This was titled the Human Gene-Editing Initiative. And it is formed from members of the National Academy of Medicine. And also from the National Academy of Sciences.
Earlier this week, the advisory board released an official report. And through it, allowed the very conditioned use of the gene editing therapy. A cautious decision as it is, it also comes with very strict rules and restrictions.
The 261-pages report presents both the gene editing therapy benefits and its restrictions. This will also act as a sort of guideline.
The term ‘gene editing therapy’ has a very precise use. It describes the process of directly modifying someone’s DNA. This alteration can be done in order to rectify and prevent a genetic disorder.
It must not be confused with ‘deliberate genetic enhancement’. This is the process through which a health person would choose to deliberately alter their genome so as to “improve it”.
And the guideline has prohibited such an application from the very start. The gene editing therapy will have a very well controlled area of utilization. One that will not be including appearance-based changes.
As such, it will be used in order to prevent or treat serious genetic diseases. Or dangerous diseases in general. The gene editing should prevent them from being transmitted down a person’s genetic line.
Gene editing may also be used as a last possible alternative. And only in cases of treating a person after birth. It may also be applied on the basis of conclusive preclinical data. This could help prove the potential probable benefits of using the technique.
The guideline once again draws a definitive line. Gene editing will not be used for non-medical reasons. For example, in trying to “enhance” human attributes.
For the moment, a clear gene editing therapy has yet to be developed. More exactly, the gene editing technologies do exist. But they are considered to be in a somewhat incipient stage.
This is in itself is a cause of joy or concern to some. But as researchers are pointing out, “science is moving fast”. As such, scientists felt the necessity of establishing a set of rules and regulations. Ones developed even before the therapy itself.
For the moment, CRISPR-Cas9, the available gene editing tool, is used for a number of purposes. Chinese scientists are trying to enlist its help in curing lung cancer, for example.
As it is, the report also points out another fact. More research will be needed before the gene editing therapy can start being used on humans.
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