New wave of genetic technique ….Ethics and safety of genetic therapies
Work raises fresh questions over whether restrictions should be placed on new wave of genetic techniques that are rapidly gaining ground.
Many critics believe that genetically modifying human embryos crosses an ethical line. Scientists have developed a host of genome editing tools and while they are incredibly powerful, they raise questions on safety, efficacy and regulation. China has moved forward with the first trials in humans with the gene editing technology but has faced criticism on the hasty approach towards the new technique. The risks of the proposed treatment include scenarios where in unintended changes are brought into the genome or of the technique failing to work.
Doctors at IVF clinics can already test embryos for genetic disease and pick the healthiest ones to implant into women, using a technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis
If genome editing is found to be safe and effective, it could be used to correct faults in embryos instead of only picking those that are healthy.
The new technology offers hope to patients suffering from various genetic diseases including blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, beta-thalassemia, infectious diseases such as HIV and many genetic cancers. The procedure also raises the spectre of designer babies where embryos are genetically modified to enhance them in the eyes of their parents. Genome editing technologies may hold significant potential for clinical applications in the future. This raises important ethical and regulatory questions which need to be anticipated and explored. We want people to have open dialogues and publicly debate regulatory challenges that the new technology would bring in the interest of good science and good ethics and not fears.