During the past few months, we have seen ethicists and scientists around the globe expressing their concerns regarding misuse of a newly discovered gene editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the leading scientific organization in the United State, has responded to those concerns by launching a pretty ambitious initiative of recommending guidelines for the new technology, which might have the potential of creating “designer babies”.
This latest gene editing tech provides scientists with the power of editing virtually all the genes identified to date. This technique works in the same way as the biological word-processing programs; like those biological programs, this gene editing tech also begins by finding genetic defects and then replaces them effectively.
The discovery of this technology has taken the world of biology and science by storm. It has resulted in fierce patent battles between universities and startups. According to experts, this tech might be proved to be as revolutionary and profitable as the recombinant DNA tech, a technology developed during the 70s and the 80s. The biotechnology industry, which is responsible for bringing in significant innovations in the past few decades, was based on the recombinant DNA tech.
However, unlike the previous technology, CRISPR-Cas9 brings with it a series of ethical concerns.
Last month, a group of researchers in China carried out the first ever experiment using this new gene editing tech; they use the technology for altering DNA of human embryos. Although the embryos used for the experiment were not viable and didn’t have any chance of getting developed into babies, scientists warned that using the gene editing tech for such purposes might end up altering human genomes for generations.
The NAS along with its Institute of Medicine will be responding to those concerns of the scientists by convening an international seminar this fall. Experts from the world of biology and renowned researchers will gather for exploring the ethical and scientific issues related to gene-editing tech.
In addition, the NAS will also be appointing an international committee for studying the social, legal and ethical implications of the technology. Based on the findings of this study, the committee will be recommending guidelines for the gene editing tech.