First CRISPR Law Prevents DIY Gene Therapy
The first law to regulate the use of genome editing technology has been passed in California.
Senator Ling Ling Chang authored the bill that requires sellers of gene therapy kits to include a label, and a notice prior to sale, stating that the CRISPR kits are not intended for self-administration. The bill is targeting ‘DIY CRISPR’ kits that can be made available to the public. These are intended to be used for home or school-based genome editing experiments on microorganisms.
There are increasing fears that people could use the kits to self-administer CRISPR treatments to themselves. Although CRISPR shows promise for providing therapies for a range of genetic diseases, it is still in a relatively early stage of development and recent human experiments have raised serious patient safety concerns. The controversial scientist He Jianku attempted to use CRISPR technology to give twin girls immunity to HIV. However, scientists think that the treatment also impaired their immune systems and resulted in additional off-target gene mutations that could reduce their lifespans.
Senator Chang said that “The technology is moving faster than regulations, so it’s important to be proactive about preventing safety mishaps by amateur users of CRISPR kits. While I’m a huge proponent of supporting scientific curiosity and imagination, I’m very concerned about the amateur use of this technology and its impact on consumer and public safety.”
There are currently no CRISPR kits meant for human experimentation, as these are prohibited by the FDA. However, the bill is a forward-thinking measure that should start discussions on how best to regulate the use of genetic technology in the law.