Francis Collins states the official NIH position on the use of genome editing technologies.

Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, has issued a statement regarding the use of genome editing technologies in human embryos.

“…NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed. Advances in technology have given us an elegant new way of carrying out genome editing, but the strong arguments against engaging in this activity remain. These include the serious and unquantifiable safety issues, ethical issues presented by altering the germline in a way that affects the next generation without their consent, and a current lack of compelling medical applications justifying the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in embryos.”

Although the topic of genome editing has been around for some time, last month’s historic publication has pressed the urgency of an official statement on the matter. The Chinese group’s use of a non-viable human embryo, has brought the topic out of the realm of science fiction and into that of the possible.

There is a seeming consensus that the human germline shouldn’t be touched. Or at least, not yet. At this point, the benefits and potential dangers should each be considered carefully. If anything, it appears that we are in a very interesting period of scientific history.

 

For the full statement, visit the NIH website.

 

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