Researchers, concerned that papers may be pending publication that report the use of genome-editing tools to modify fertilised human germline cells, suggest a voluntary moratorium on such work. Edward Lanphier, chair of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) and the president and CEO of Sangamo BioSciences, and co-authors argue that the ethical issues are too great, the safety risks too high and the therapeutic benefits too tenuous to risk a public backlash that could impede much more responsible uses of the technology currently going through clinical trials.
"At this early stage, scientists should agree to not modify the DNA of human reproductive cells," write Lanphier and his co-authors. They point out that genome editing in human embryos using current technologies could have unpredictable impacts on future generations and that "such research could be exploited for non-therapeutic modifications".
The authors urge scientists to engage in open debates about how to proceed. They underline the therapeutic promise of genome-editing technology in somatic (non-reproductive) cells – making non-heritable changes, in other words. The ARM is an international organization that represents more than 200 life-science companies, research institutions, non-profit organisations, patient-advocacy groups and investors, focused on developing and commercialising therapeutics, including those involving genome editing.Nature material Nature editorial