The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently called on countries to stop any research that might lead to the birth of genetically edited human beings. The call was made with the release of the recommendations on human genome editing.
Human genome editing has great potential. It can improve human health and medicine by making changes to DNA in cells to correct, introduce or delete almost any DNA sequence which may cause disease. Other potential benefits include new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent genetic disorders, novel ways to treat infertility, increasing knowledge of human biology and contributing towards vaccine development.
The potential of this technology came into the spotlight in 2018 when Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced that he had edited the genomes of twin girls. His announcement was met with consternation among many scientists because it highlighted a significant gap in regulation.
In response, the WHO established a committee made up of a global multi-disciplinary panel of 18 experts. The committee was asked to develop standards for human genome editing.