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Public on When to Edit

About 70 percent of US adults say they think it would be fine to someday use gene-editing approaches to prevent an incurable or fatal genetic disease, a poll conducted by the Associated Press has found. The same portion of adults, though, opposes the use of gene editing to improve, for instance, a person's intelligence or athletic ability.

The AP-NORC queried 1,067 adults in the US. In addition to being OK with using gene editing to treat fatal or incurable diseases, most respondents — about two-thirds — say they also favored its use to treat other conditions like blindness among children or to prevent later-in-life diseases such as cancer. But most drew the line at altering physical features like eye or hair color.

This poll, the AP notes, was conducted after a researcher in China, He Jiankui, announced the birth of twin girls whose genome he had edited as embryos using the CRISPR tool. He's revelation was met with dismay by much of the scientific community not only as there are concerns about the accuracy of the tool and the ethics of editing the human germline, but also about his choice to target the CCR5 gene to prevent HIV infection, as there are other ways of preventing such infection.

More poll respondents also opposed than favored government funding to research the use of gene-editing technology on human embryos, the AP adds.