Experts push for global database of gene-editing research

Combined Shape

GENEVA (AP) — A panel convened by the World Health Organization said it would be “irresponsible” for scientists to use gene editing for reproductive purposes, but stopped short of calling for a ban.

The experts also called for the U.N. health agency to create a database of scientists working on gene editing. The recommendation was announced Tuesday after a two-day meeting in Geneva to examine the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges of such research.

“At this time, it is irresponsible for anyone to proceed” with making gene-edited babies since DNA changes could be passed down to future generations, the experts said in a statement.

Last year, Chinese researcher He Jiankui rocked the scientific community with his announcement that he helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, altering the DNA of twin girls to try to make them resistant to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

WHO’s announcement comes after an international group of scientists and ethicists called for a temporary ban on gene-edited babies in the journal Nature last week.

Trending:
Report: Bidens Aggressively Dodged More Than $500,000 in Taxes Before Joe Demanded Americans Pay Their 'Fair Share'

Margaret Ann Hamburg, co-chair of the WHO panel, and her colleagues declined to call for a similar prohibition.

“I don’t think a vague moratorium is the answer to what needs to be done,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is to look at the broader picture.”

She said the experts envisioned a WHO-directed database where journal publishers and funders of gene editing research would require scientists to sign up — but acknowledged they had not yet worked out how to reprimand any scientists who refused to register.

Earlier this year, Chinese investigators said He had dodged supervision of his work and broke research norms because he wanted to be famous. The report said He could face consequences, although it didn’t specify which regulations he may have violated.

WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the formation of the panel in early December after He revealed his experiment.

“We have to be very, very careful” about how to proceed, Tedros said at the time. “We have a big part of our population who say, ‘Don’t touch.'”

Gene editing is intended as a more precise way to do gene therapy. Trying it in adults to treat diseases is not controversial and the DNA changes do not pass to future generations. But most scientists think gene editing to make babies is too risky to be tried at the moment because of the danger of damaging other genes and because unknown DNA alterations could be passed on.

___

Cheng reported from London.

Related:
China Lands on Mars for the 1st Time in Another Step Forward for Its Space Program

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →






We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
Combined Shape
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation