People destined to inherit serious diseases could be cured by a type of genetic engineering currently illegal in Britain, a Nobel Prize-winner says.
The invention of a new genome editing tool called “germline therapy” means precise changes to genetic material can be made to correct faulty DNA in human sperm, eggs and embryos.
However, the procedure is banned in Britain and many other states because the genetic changes would be passed down to future generations with largely-unknown risks.
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, speaking to the Guardian, says the risks and benefits of the procedure, which could create the first genetically-modified humans if given the green light, need to be debated.
“It’s definitely a major step, there’s no getting around that.
“What we need is a diverse and transparent group of people to really come together and get to grips with how we go about using this tool and are there red lines. They may well decide there are red lines we shouldn’t cross.
“The concern I have is the same as with any other technology, which is that once a technology is feasible, we may well regulate it but someone somewhere may start using it in ways we consider unethical.”
At a meeting in Washington, DC, in December, scientists decided not to impose their own global ban on modifying human embryos destined to become people but stated that to do so would be unacceptable given the unknown risks today.
‘GM crops shouldn’t be banned’
Meanwhile, the Royal Society, of which Ramakrishnan is president, will publish a report on Tuesday…