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Let's Talk About This

Altering the human germline through genome editing needs further ethical discussion by the scientific community, the White House says.

"The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time," writes John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in a blog post.

In the post, Holdren praises the recent announcement by the National Academy of Sciences to convene an international summit in the fall to explore the scientific, ethical, and policy issues regarding the use of gene-editing technologies like CRISPR to alter the human germline.

The meeting announcement followed on a call in March for a moratorium on genome editing of the human germline and a report published in April in Protein & Cell from Sun-Yat Sen University researchers describing how they applied the CRISPR/Cas-9 genome editing approach to non-viable human embryos.

"Research along these lines raises serious and urgent questions about the potential implications for clinical applications that could lead to genetically altered humans," Holdren adds. "The full implications of such a step could not be known until a number of generations had inherited the genetic changes made — and choices made in one country could affect all of us."