CRISPR gene editing has opened up a number of opportunities to influence public health, eliminate pests, and treat human disease, but Amy Gutmann and Jonathan Moreno from the University of Pennsylvania write in an essay appearing in Foreign Affairs that it also poses risks and some regulation is needed
CRISPR-powered gene drives could be used to cull mouse populations in particular areas or enable threatened amphibians to resist certain infections. But the gene drives also face the risk of moving beyond their targeted species and region, Gutmann and Moreno say. But as it is still early days in the development of the technology, they argue that "governments should follow the principle of regulatory parsimony." In that way, they say scientific work will be able to move forward, while ethical standards and public safety are preserved.
Human gene editing could treat disease or by editing the germline prevent the inheritance of certain gene variants. Gutmann and Moreno write that current regulations regarding clinical research in the US provide sufficient standards for the use of gene editing to treat disease. But, they say, more stringent ones are needed to guide germline editing as that could have ramifications for humanity, but they note that the science is not advanced enough yet to know what guidelines are necessary.
The best standards, they add, will come from researchers themselves. "Those are the forums that can respond best to often unpredictable developments in the science and react sensitively to public opinion," Gutmann and Moreno write.