Posted on June 14, 2019 at 12:55 AM
It is reported this week that a
Russian scientist plans to edit the genes of more human embryos intending
to bring gene-edited babies to birth. As
with the case in China last year, the intent is to edit a gene called CCR5 that
is responsible for a receptor that facilitates initiation of HIV
infection. The stated reason is to
prevent transmission of infection from the mother, not the father, as in the Chinese
case. Maternal transmission of HIV is a
real risk, but there are other ways to prevent it, with medications. And, as recently reported on this blog, the risks
of editing this gene are not understood, nor are the long-term risks of
heritable genome editing.
press is saying that someone should put a stop, now, to bringing edited
embryos to pregnancy and birth. But it
is unlikely that effective action can be taken.
The public will has not been engaged, necessary medical research controls
are not in place, and no one can say just who would have the authority to take
what sort of action.
So for the moment there is little else to say. We will hear of more cases. We will find out later how we will
respond. Clarity and consistency of that
response seem unlikely.