1 February 2016
The latest genome editing technologies provide faster, simpler and cheaper methods of selectively manipulating the genome.
Although genome manipulation has been possible for decades, the accessibility of these new technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9, means that they can be used far more widely than existing technologies. Genome editing is already being used in multiple applications and has enormous potential to speed research and facilitate useful and effective applications which could be beneficial to human health. However, the full implications of these technologies are often unknown. For this reason, these technologies will challenge existing ethical and regulatory infrastructures in a number of ways: the speed of technological change threatens existing infrastructures and processes for assessing benefit and harm; the consequences of using genome editing may be uncertain; and they may have global impact. Novel forms of ethical and regulatory collaboration are required which foster and enable self-regulation rather than adopting moratoria against gene / genome editing: this is on the basis that these will stultify research which has the potential to be profoundly beneficial, and also that these will tend to be disregarded in those countries where existing regulatory infrastructure and ethical review are poor, where, paradoxically, the need for effective regulation is most acute.
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