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And Sounded

In an editorial, Protein & Cell says the journal chose to publish the controversial human germline editing paper last week as a "sounding of an alarm." 

The paper, from Sun Yat-sen University's Junjiu Huang and his colleagues, described using the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing system to alter non-viable human embryos and found that while the approach could cleave the target gene, it was not efficient and led to mosaicism. They also noted that off-target cleavage did occur.

Its publication drew quick, and strong, reactions from many researchers.

Both Science and Nature declined to publish the study, partly because of the ethical concerns they had about the project.

Xiaoxue Zhang, the managing editor at Protein & Cell, writes in the editorial that their "decision to publish this study should not be viewed as an endorsement of this practice nor an encouragement of similar attempts."

Instead, he says it should underscore "the urgent need to rein in applications of gene-editing technologies."

To that end, until the research community has assessed the risks and benefits of the approach and developed guidelines for its use, he says researchers should avoid pursuing studies that present possible safety or ethical risks.

Nature News adds that Science, Nature, and Cell Press are examining the issue.

"We believe strongly that the potential of genome editing must be viewed in terms of social mores and that the path forward must be developed through a consensus-building process," Science tells Nature News. 

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