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In a new study, four researchers reviewed policy documents from 106 countries to map out the policy landscape regarding human germline and heritable genome editing, finding that only 11 countries explicitly allow the use of genetically modified in vitro embryos in laboratory research, and that no country allows for the use of such embryos to initiate pregnancies.

The discussion around the social, ethical and policy implications of gene editing is not a new one, and in fact, spans many decades. Here, heritable genome editing refers to genetically modifying embryos, which when transferred to a uterus to initiate a pregnancy, would result in the birth of a child with a modified genome. The child’s descendants would also inherit a genetically modified genome. On the other hand, germline genome editing involves the genetic modification of gametes (eggs or sperms) or early-stage embryos in the laboratory, and are not used for reproduction.

In November 2018, researcher He Jiankui reported the birth of twin girls whose genomes had been edited at the embryo stage, using the CRISPR/Cas system, in an attempt to confer... see more