Genetics can alter the DNA of children


Though altering the DNA of a child before birth is "not morally unacceptable in itself", any such decision should be guided by the child's future welfare and welfare of thesociety, a British bioethics body has said in a report after conducting a 20-month independent inquiry.

Gene editing has been championed as a potential medical silver-bullet allowing parents to prevent genetic diseases being inherited by their children.

The Council also said the practice should only be permitted after a "broad and inclusive public debate" on its potential use and implications, further research to establish standards of clinical safety, and an assessment of the risks to individuals, groups and society as a whole.

Genome editing, which targets DNA sequences in living cells, could in theory be used to change the human embryo before it is transferred to the womb.

The report does not list any specific uses for DNA modification but instead says it must follow certain principles to be considered ethical.

In other words, the report suggests that human genome editing for the objective of genetic improvement, and not only the avoidance of disease, may be morally acceptable, an affirmation that can not help raising the specter of eugenics and designer babies.

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The technique of genome editing is touted as a means to correct genetic disorders.

Genetically modifying babies to influence the characteristics of future generations "could be ethically acceptable", the council ruled, if two principles are satisfied.

On Tuesday, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB), an independent United Kingdom -based organization that analyzes and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine, released a report focused on the social and ethical issues surrounding human genome editing and reproduction.

Yeung, a professor of law, ethics, and informatics at the University of Birmingham, told The Guardian that the Nuffield working group saw no issues for now with proper rules that would make such medical work unscrupulous. Great advances are happening in the field showing that genes alone do not shape a person, the possibility of using this technology to secure and/or avoid characteristics in a person offers a new approach that is likely to appeal to a great many prospective parents. The council said such processes "should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society".

Heritable genome editing involves making targeted changes to the genome of embryo, sperm or egg cells, resulting in alterations which can be transmitted stably through generations.