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Standards Needed

Following the recent announcement of the birth of twin girls who had undergone gene editing as embryos, officials from scientific societies in the US and China call for the international community to develop criteria and standards for germline editing, in an editorial appearing in Science.

"To maintain the public's trust that someday genome editing will be able to treat or prevent disease, the research community needs to take steps now to demonstrate that this new tool can be applied with competence, integrity, and benevolence," the US National Academy of Medicine's Victor Dzau, the US National Academy of Sciences' Marcia McNutt, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Chunli Bai write. The officials add that, in addition to standards, a mechanism is needed so that researchers can raise concerns about any work that might not meet accepted scientific norms.

Some critics, though, say the officials' call for standards is too little and too late. Fyodor Urnov from the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences tells NPR that the US academies have already done what the editorial urges. "How well did that work?" he asks. Urnov adds that there is no clinical justification for germline editing and argues that it should be banned.

Harvard Medical School's George Daley, meanwhile, says at NPR the editorial "is a thoughtful statement that highlights the importance of further deliberation."