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An International Summit on Human Gene Editing, co-hosted by the US National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, the UK’s Royal Society, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, took place December 1st-3rd, 2015. We speakers were charged with addressing the scientific and ethical challenges posed by the new accurate and accessible genome editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human genomes.

The most pressing task of the Summit was to consider whether human germline genome editing should be allowed. Edits to someone’s germline genome are deletions and/or insertions of small segments of DNA in germ cells (eggs and sperm or their precursor cells, pluripotent stem cells, or very early embryos to be used in reproduction). These alterations would be carried into all the cells of a resulting child, and then passed on to future generations through sexual reproduction. Although such edits might cure severe disease in the resultant child, the risk of errors and unintended effects to the child and from spreading genome changes into the gene pool are unknown and, to many, unacceptable. Somatic... see more