A committee of experts working with the World Health Organization on Monday called on the world’s nations to set strong limits on powerful methods of human gene acquisition.
Their recommendations, made after two years of deliberation, aim at rogue science experiments with the human genome, and ensure that the proper use of gene-acquisition technology is widespread, especially in developing countries, and not just wealthy people. Is beneficial for. .
“I am very supportive,” said Dr. Leonard Zone, a gene therapy specialist at Harvard University, who was not a member of the committee, but called it a “thinking group.” He said the recent results of gene-acquisition were “impressive”, and the committee’s recommendations would be “very important for future therapies.”
The guidelines proposed by the WHO committee were largely asked by the case of Chinese scientist He Jianqui, who stunned the world in November 2018, when he announced that he had modified human fetal DNA using CRISPR, a technique that accurately Allow editing. Genes. Such changes meant that any changes in the genes would be replicated in every cell of the fetus, including sperm and egg cells. And that meant that the changes, if they were disgusting rather than helpful, would pass on their DNA not only in children born after gene acquisition, but in every pay generation.
Dr. Their goal is to alter children’s DNA in an effort to make them genetically incapable of transmitting HIV from their parents. A Chinese court has ruled that he created documents of morality and misled subjects in experiments who did not know what his gene-editing experiment was. He was sentenced in December 2019 to three years in prison.
Such an experiment, known as pesticide acquisition, raised the question of how to control gene acquisition and ensure that it is used for the benefit of the people.
WHO standards say that Dr. He said the use of microbial editing was unacceptable and it is irresponsible to think of using it now. But other types of gene acquisition are a different story.
Scientists are already trying to improve the mutations in gene editing that cause sickle cell disease. The edited gene will be in the bone marrow cells that make up the blood of people with the disease, not in the sperm or egg cells, so the mutation will not be passed on to the fetus. But, the use of CRISPR also raises other questions.
The WHO committee described an explored scenario where researchers from rich countries wanted to conduct clinical trials of sickle-cell gene acquisition in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease prevails. If the trial is successful, gene-editing treatment will be very expensive for very few citizens in the country where it is to be tested.
Another hypothetical situation involves a gene-editing trial to correct a gene mutation that causes Huntington’s disease, a progressive brain disorder. People who inherit a mutated gene will develop Huntington’s disease with absolute certainty. If the gene-acquisition experiment is successful, it could save the dreaded disease. And because the acquisition does not include sperm and eggs, the changes will not be inherited.
But it will take years, perhaps even decades, to find out if those whose genes were studied were protected from Huntington’s disease. Participants will not be spared the terrible fear that, despite gene acquisition, they may still develop malignant brain disease.
In such a situation, the WHO group asked if there were faster ways to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. The researchers recommended that considering the mental burden on participants, they hope they have recovered but do not know for sure.
Still, gene acquisition is here and holds enormous promise, the committee said. The WHO has launched a registry of study studies and says it already includes 156 experiments that contain genes that are not present in sperm or eggs.
The WHO Committee stressed that research must be conducted with ethical and proper oversight and that each country must have guidelines to ensure that there should be conditions in place to ensure access and social justice. With the expectation that treatment costs would be very high, at least first, the group said the goal was to ensure that the benefits of gene acquisition were equally shared by people around the world.
“This is not an easy challenge,” said Fran isois Is Bayliss, a member of the committee on medical ethics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.