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DNA and scale of justice

A committee of experts working with the World Health Organization on Monday called on the nations of the world to set stronger limits on powerful methods of human gene editing.

Their recommendations, made after two years of deliberation, aim to head off rogue science experiments with the human genome, and ensure that proper uses of gene-editing techniques are beneficial to the broader public, particularly people in developing countries, and not only the wealthy.

“I am very supportive,” said Dr. Leonard Zon, a gene therapy expert at Harvard University who was not a member of the committee, but called it a “thoughtful group.” Recent gene-editing results are “impressive,” he said, and the committee’s recommendations will be “very important for therapy in the future.”

The guidelines proposed by the W.H.O. committee were prompted in large part by the case of He Jiankui, a scientist in China who stunned the world in November 2018 when he announced he had altered the DNA of human embryos using CRISPR, a technique that allows precision editing of genes. Such alterations meant that any changes that... see more