Ethicists square off over editing genes in human embryos

via Yahoo News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Debate over the use of powerful new gene editing tools in human eggs, sperm and embryos grew heated on Tuesday as scientists and ethicists gathered at an international summit to discuss the technology, which has the power to change the DNA of unborn children.

Several groups have already called for restrictions on use of the technology known as CRISPR-Cas9, which has opened up new frontiers in genetic medicine because of its ability to modify genes quickly and efficiently.

Hille Haker, chair of Catholic Moral Theology at Loyola University Chicago, argued on Tuesday in favor of a two-year international ban on research that involves changing human reproductive cells, also known as germline cells. Such changes would be passed on to offspring.

She argued that such practices violated the freedom of unborn children, who would not have an opportunity to consent to changes in their genetic code.

But John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester in Britain, argued strongly in favor of the technology.

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