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Gene-Editing Registry Proposed

A panel convened by the World Health Organization is to ask the agency to establish a global registry of human germline gene-editing projects, Stat News reports. It adds that the panel will additionally recommend that funders require their grantees to register such work and journal editors only publish studies that were on the registry.

The WHO said in December that it would be convening a panel to develop standards and guidelines for gene editing, following researcher He Jiankui's announcement that he had edited the genomes of two twin girls as embryos. That panel's members were announced in February with Margaret Hamburg, the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, and Edwin Cameron, a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, as co-chairs.

Reuters adds that the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is in favor of the proposed registry. "Gene editing holds incredible promise for health, but it also poses some risks, both ethically and medically," he says in a statement.

However, Stat News notes that it's not yet clear how the use of the registry would be enforced. Victor Dzau, the president of US National Academy of Medicine, tells it that, unless there are legal ramifications, it is "hard to see how you could make the private sector comply," adding that "but at least this is a first step."