Given this morning’s reports of infants possibly born in China whose genomes were edited by CRISPR-based technology, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) reaffirms the cautious but proactive approach recommended in its 2017 position statement on human germline genome editing, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics.
Along with 10 other global organizations with expertise in medical genetics, genetics research, and genetic counseling, the 2017 statement recommends against genome editing that culminates in human pregnancy. It supports publicly funded, in vitro research into its potential clinical applications and outlines scientific and societal steps necessary before implementation of such clinical applications is considered. These include establishing a compelling medical rationale and a scientific evidence base, an ethical justification, and a transparent public process to solicit and incorporate stakeholder input.
“It is premature to perform germline genome editing that culminates in human pregnancy,” said David L. Nelson, PhD, ASHG President. “Important scientific, ethical, and policy discussions are taking place, in a variety of venues within and outside ASHG, but many vital questions remain unanswered.”
“ASHG remains committed to the power and progress of human genetics to improve health. We see great promise for genome editing technology and the advances it will bring. ASHG has taken a leadership position in drawing consensus among genetics research professionals to ensure that this potential is realized in an appropriate and responsible way,” Dr. Nelson added. To this end, the Society supports continued in vitro studies of human embryos and gametes, with appropriate oversight and consent from donors, to facilitate research on the possible future clinical applications of genome editing.