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He says that many of the problems with the latest work, such as the off-target mutations in DNA, could have been avoided or lessened had the researchers used the most up-to-date CRISPR/Cas9 methods.Even if there are side effects, it may still be ethical to allow the technique to become available in clinics, says Harris.There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
Others say that modifying germline cells could be acceptable if it is solely for the purposes of research.
George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, points out that using CRISPR/Cas9 and other gene-editing tools in human embryos, eggs and sperm could answer plenty of basic scientific questions that have nothing to do with clinical applications. Modifying human embryos is legal in China and in many US states, although the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) forbids the use of federal funds for such research.
Some feel that Huang’s group has already crossed an ethical line.
“No researcher has the moral warrant to flout the globally widespread policy agreement against altering the human germline,” Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the non-profit Centre for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California, wrote in a statement.
“I think the paper itself actually provides all of the data that we kind of pointed to,” he says.
But George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, disagrees that the technology is that immature.
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But whether the experiments carried out by Huang count as germline modification is not straightforward, because the embryos could not have led to a live birth.
“It’s no worse than what happens in IVF all the time, which is that non-viable embryos are discarded," says John Harris, a bioethicist at the University of Manchester, UK.