Saturday, December 10, 2016

CRISPR-Cas9 Human Genome Editing: Challenges, Ethical Concerns and Implications


omicsonline |  Genome editing technologies may in the future have therapeutic potential for various incurable diseases: cancer, genetic disorders, HIV/AIDS to mention the most obvious. Genome editing of somatic cells, which is at it various clinical stages, is a promising area of therapeutic development. This year, a group of Chinese researchers led by Junjiu Huang - a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, used complex enzyme-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 as a therapeutic agent to eradicate the human β-globulin (HBB) gene from the germline of the human embryo. The mutations in HBB gene cause β-thalassaemia (a deadly blood disorder). The research was, however, not completely successful, and had to be abandoned at its preliminary stage. This research was published in the journal Protein and Cell after it was rejected by the journal Nature and Science on ethical grounds. Caution flags have been raised about the use of CRISPR-Cas9 on human germline editing. This research has generated the debate among the world-renowned scientists about the ethical concerns and implications of CRISPR-Cas9 human germline editing. While some members of the scientific community have argued that a moratorium should be called on human germline editing, others have argued that it is unethical to withhold a technology that would eliminate devastating genetic diseases. This paper critically evaluates the challenges, ethical concerns and implications of CRISPR-Cas9 human germ line editing.