Scientists around the world have renewed calls for a moratorium on controversial research into genetic editing of human embryos after a Chinese team published results indicating they had successfully edited the human genome.
Earlier this week, Huang Junjiu and a team of researchers at Sun Yat-sen University published a paper indicating that they had managed to alter a gene in a non-viable embryo (embryos that cannot result in live birth) that would’ve been responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially deadly blood disorder common among children in southern China.
According to Shanghai Daily, critics have recently renewed calls to end research into this field, arguing that the science could have unknown effects on future generations and open the door to a new era of eugenics.
The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine issued a statement saying “given the significant safety and ethical implications of modifying the DNA of human reproductive (germline) cells, this research is highly premature.”
“It is unacceptable to pursue this kind of research at this time. We are calling for a voluntary worldwide moratorium on this kind of research to allow for rigorous transparent legal and policy discussions and continued public debate regarding the science, safety and ethics of modifying human embryos,” the organisation said.
Among those calling for a halt were Edward Lanphier, chief executive officer of US-based Sangamo BioSciences, and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
It is believed that at least four other Chinese research teams are currently carrying out similar studies according to Nature News.
By Dominic Jackson