Gene-editing techniques, such as CRISPR, helped scientists achieve many advances in genetics. The most recent breakthrough is one of the Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who managed to create the world’s first genetically modified babies. Even though the scientific community condemned the Chinese researchers’ practice, his achievement is of great importance for the world, nonetheless. Now, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is planning to organize a panel to study the health impact of gene editing.
According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, ” gene editing cannot be just done without clear guidelines, and experts should start from a clean sheet and check everything.”
Last week, He Jiankui announced that he and his co-workers created the first genetically modified babies in the world by using CRISPR gene-editing technique. In that breakthrough, the Chinese scientists managed to “give birth” to twins immune to HIV. Jiankui’s achievement raised ethical concerns, however.
World Health Organization To Study Health Impact Of Gene Editing
While China ordered He Jiankui to stop his experiments on gene-editing in babies, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now planning to study the health impact of gene editing so that the researchers in genetics could start their experiments only if they respect a well-established guideline. That would be focusing on ethics and which would not endanger the life and wellbeing of the genetically modified organisms that would result.
“WHO’s experts should start from asking, ‘Should we even consider this?’ We have a big part of our population who say, ‘Don’t touch.” We have to be very, very careful, and the working group will do that,” added WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
While He Jiankui’s first genetically modified babies in the world could be, more or less, just the beginning of a new generation of humans immune to deadly viruses such as HIV, his achievement is not ethical as the scientists are not yet sure about the health impact of gene editing using CRISPR.