After the CRISPR babies, what next?

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Two weeks ago, a Chinese scientist announced the birth of twin babies whose DNA he had altered as embryos (Symbolic image). (Visusalisations: Shutterstock)

We’re at a critical moment in history: scientific advances over the last few decades have given us profound insight into genetic diseases, and there’s hope that in the future we’ll be able to cure these illnesses with genome editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9. Such methods are currently being fine-tuned, but they’re still nowhere near ready for altering human germlines. To apply them to make genetically modified babies, as the Chinese scientist He Jiankui recently claimed to have done is utterly irresponsible.

Nonetheless, we should not vilify germline therapy for good. What’s needed now is serious discussion about the possible risks and benefits of germline editing. And well-thought out regulation that prohibits bad actions while leaving a path for desperate patients.

ETH Zukunftsblog