Panel backs gene-editing for treating diseases

The potentially revolutionary gene-editing technologies should be used to treat diseases or disabilities, a panel of scientists suggested.

In its newly-issued report, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences said scientists should be allowed to use techniques like CRISPR-Cas9 for gene editing for treating certain deadly diseases.

The newly published report says, “There is some indication of public discomfort with using genome editing for what is deemed to be enhancement, whether for fear of exacerbating social inequities or of creating social pressure for people to use technologies they would not otherwise choose.”

Scientists in China last year launched a trial into using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to treat the deadly disease of lung cancer. The report noted that the United States’ ethical reservations may put the nation at a disadvantage.

While the panel did not recommend a total ban on use of gene-editing technologies to make inheritable changes to DNA, it stressed that the controversial technology should be tightly reserved for treatment or prevention of diseases. In other words, it should not be used for creating smarter, taller or more beautiful offspring.