Model Used for Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) May Offer Useful Guidelines for Human Genome Editing Policies, Authors of Perspective Piece in Science Argue

The pace of human genome editing for both research and therapy is accelerating rapidly, raising ethical questions among scientists around the world. On the one hand, technical advances such as CRISP/Cas9 enzymology could enable doctors to modify germline genes - those contained in sperm and eggs – so as to prevent offspring from developing devastating genetic diseases. At the same time, the potential for gene editing to alter human inheritance also alarms many scientists, prompting some to argue that germline editing should be prohibited indefinitely. As countries around the world seek to craft policy frameworks governing the powerful new genome editing tools, policy makers need to determine "thresholds of acceptability" for using the technology, according to three researchers from the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University in Canada. Dr. Rosario Isasi, Dr. Erika Kleiderman, and Dr. Bartha Maria Knoppers suggest, in an open-access “Perspectives” article in the journal Science, that policy-makers could be guided by the model that has served to develop policies governing pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) after in vitro fertilization. PGD, which is used to identify genetic conditions in embryos and prevent certain diseases from being passed on to the child, "was first regarded as highly controversial and now is mainly governed within the general biomedical research context," the researchers write. Many countries allow genetic testing in pre-implantation embryos, subject to medically determined requirements such as the gravity of the genetic condition and a substantial risk of occurrence.
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