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OK With Editing, to a Degree

While people are generally OK with gene editing to treat disease, they are less sure about it being used to induce heritable changes, NPR reports.

In Science this week, a University of Wisconsin-Madison team writes that in their survey of 1,600 US adults, they found that people were roughly equally accepting of somatic and germline therapy, but were less accepting of somatic enhancement and even less OK with germline enhancement. About 60 percent of respondents supported human genome editing in some instances, like to treat medical conditions

Likewise, NPR notes that a Pew survey out this week also indicates that people are warier of heritable gene editing. It further found that parents of children under the age of 18 were the most leery.

"There's probably much more optimism rather than pessimism about this technology overall," Wisconsin's Dietram Scheufele says.

Robert Blendon from Harvard's School of Public Health points out, though, that people don't know that much about gene editing and adds that he's found that slight alterations to how questions are worded can influence how people respond. "When you use the term 'embryos', you get a somewhat less supportive view," he tells NPR. "So if you don't mention embryos or anything like that, you get much higher views for you know, getting rid of things like Huntington's disease."