A bold proposal and a cautious report

Let’s imagine a hundred or more citizens from all over the globe, selected to partecipate in a giant focus group aiming to represent world views. It would be an unprecedented social experiment, that’s for sure, but the call is worth considering. The bold proposal comes from a group of social scientists and a few geneticists (George Church included) writing today in Science. Fascinating as it is, this kind of assembly is probably easier said than done. However, the main problem, in my opinion, comes next: what should experts and politicians do with the assembly’s deliberations?

After the bold proposal, the cautious report. I’m two weeks late, but cannot pass up the new international report on germline editing. Sorry, I meant heritable editing. Why is this linguistic shift important? The answer is in the box below.

According to the experts from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the UK Royal Society, the path is very narrow: neither the techniques for creating desired mutations nor the methods for identifying unwanted mutations are mature enough to carry out heritable editing in humans. Only very few monogenic and severe diseases should be considered and only when other conventional methods (i.e. pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) fail to help. In practice, the possible application in human reproduction is so circumscribed that “human reproductive editing is a solution in search of a problem” (Fyodor Urnov dixit).

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