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Human genome

Countries contemplating giving the green light to heritable genome editing received specific guidance from an international commission this week on how to prepare for a future in which the technology is safe and effective enough to use in human reproduction.

The commission was created in response to the news almost two years ago that a scientist in China had edited the genomes of two babies when they were single-cell embryos. (It subsequently emerged that a third baby with an edited genome had been born.)

While the scientist involved, He Jiankui, was widely condemned for conducting a premature and unethical experiment, and later fined and sentenced to jail, his first-in-humans experiment pushed the international community beyond a “germline editing — good or bad?” discussion to actively considering what it would take to justify its use.

Germline gene editing raises particular ethical and safety issues. Gene editing in a young child or adult creates changes that may affect the individual, but are not passed on to his or her children. Germline editing, also known as heritable genome editing, creates changes that... see more