Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Responsible Use

Germline gene editing ought to be used responsibly, argues Christopher Gyngell, a bioethicist at the University of Oxford, in the Guardian.

While the recent publication from Sun Yat-sen University researchers describing using the CRISPR/Cas9 method to edit non-viable human zygotes has drawn criticism — the US National Institutes of Health has reiterated that it won't fund any germline genome editing efforts — Gyngell says that it also represents a novel way to fight disease. Nearly 8 million children are born each year, he says, with birth defects that have a genetic cause. "If we could safely and easily correct these errors at the embryonic stage it would be possible to virtually eradicate this disease burden," he says.

Though current techniques are imprecise and shouldn't be used on viable embryos, the methods should be further developed and refined, Gyngell says.

Despite concerns by some researchers and funding agencies about "designer babies," he notes that germline editing will still push ahead. But, if it is "to be done in a responsible way, we need countries with good regulatory systems leading the charge," he adds, noting that the UK already has a regulatory framework in place for embryo research.

"What we ought to do is use this resource responsibly," Gyngell writes. "We should harness its power to achieve good ends and restrict its use for purposes that are bad. This will not be achieved by simply withdrawing from research."