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Lines in the sand

Why scientists want Asilomar-type conference on human germline gene editing

By C. Simone Fishburn, Editor, BioCentury Innovations

Once CRISPR catapulted gene editing to the forefront of DNA-based technology, it was only a matter of time before it would be considered for use in human germline cells. With some researchers calling for restraint on the use of gene editing while ground rules are laid, schisms are already surfacing on whether there's any case to be made for using the technology in human germline cells. But one thing stakeholders agree on is the need for an open discussion, not least to pre-empt public fears and a GMO-type backlash.

The heart of the issue is that, unlike gene editing in somatic cells, changes to chromosomal DNA in eggs or sperm would be carried through to future generations, in effect creating "unnatural" forms of human life.

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