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May 9, 2017

Toward Responsible Human Genome Editing

Author Affiliations
  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 2Allen and Frances Adler Laboratory of Blood and Vascular Biology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York
  • 3Pediatrics, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, California
JAMA. 2017;317(18):1829-1830. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.4548

Progress in genome editing has generated interest because of its promise to improve human health. The development of the RNA-guided CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system1 has spurred a remarkable increase in research because this technique is more efficient, less costly, and easier to use than earlier protein-guided technologies such as zinc finger nucleases and TALENs.

The speed at which the science is advancing raises important questions about human genome editing, such as how to balance potential benefits against risks of unintended harms, how to regulate the use of genome editing and incorporate societal values into policy decisions, and how to respect the diverse perspectives of individuals, nations, and cultures that will influence whether and how to use these technologies. A new report from the US National Academies of Sciences and Medicine2 addresses these questions and makes recommendations for the application and oversight of human genome editing in 3 major settings: (1) basic laboratory research; (2) clinical applications in somatic cells (whose effects would be limited to treated individuals); and (3) future potential clinical applications in germline cells (in which genetic changes would be inherited by future generations).

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