US Senators Call for International Guidelines for Germline Editing

Read on The Scientist

In the wake of reports of CRISPRed babies born in China, a bipartisan resolution “opposes the experiments that resulted in pregnancies using genome-edited human embryos.”

Jul 16, 2019, The Scientist

By JEF AKST

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a resolution yesterday (July 15) calling for global collaboration in developing guidelines for the use of gene editing technologies in the context of reproduction. The senators specifically pledge their support for the international commission established in May by the US National Academy of Medicine, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of the UK to develop a framework for scientific research into the use of germline editing, and encourages the US Secretary of State to help “forge an international consensus regarding the limits of ethical clinical use of genome-edited human embryos.”

“Gene editing is a powerful technology that has the potential to lead to new therapies for devastating and previously untreatable diseases,” Feinstein says in a statement. “However, like any new technology, there is potential for misuse. The international community must establish standards for gene-editing research to develop global ethical principles and prevent unethical researchers from moving to whichever country has the loosest regulations.” (Editing embryos for reproductive purposes is already illegal in the US.)

In addition, the resolution makes clear that the trio of senators “opposes the experiments that resulted in pregnancies using genome-edited human embryos”—referring to the revelation last fall that researcher He Jiankui had CRISPRed the genomes of two babies born in China.

See “CRISPR Scientists Slam Methods Used on Gene-Edited Babies

The resolution “stands out,” STAT reports, because the scientific community is engaging in work that could employ gene editing to prevent genetic disease, and “some members of Congress have recently expressed some openness to lifting the ban on editing embryos used to start pregnancies.”

Jef Akst is the managing editor at The Scientist. Email her at jef.akst@the-scientist.com.

jacob okada