The organizers of a meeting on gene editing blow up a Chinese study but plead for a "road" towards human trials | Science


Some say that a global moratorium on the editing of germ line genes is called as a result of He Jiankui's controversial study.

luismmolina / iStockPhoto

By Dennis Normile

HONG KONG, CHINA – An international conference on human gene editing dominated by the announcement of the birth of the world's first genetically modified babies has ended today with a statement from the organizers severely condemning this controversial study. But he did not call for a global moratorium on similar studies, as some scientists had hoped; instead, he called for a "translation path" that could eventually bring ethically heavy technology to patients in a responsible way.

The animated debate, which apparently led to the birth of twins whose genomes were modified in a way that could affect their offspring, was uncovered on the eve of the second International Summit on the Modification of the Human Genome. The first summit, which was held in Washington DC in December 2015, concluded with a statement that, unless the problems of safety, efficiency, efficiency, and effectiveness were met. If ethics and regulation are not resolved, it would be irresponsible to make any clinical use of germ line modification. , "a reference to genetic modifications that can be passed on to the next generation.

But that's exactly what Chinese researcher He Jiankui has done, paralyzing a gene called CCR5 in the hope of making babies as well as their children resistant to HIV infection. After the news appeared in the media, he appeared at a special summit yesterday to defend his work and answer questions from stunned viewers. (He is an associate professor at the South Shenzhen University of Science and Technology, in the nearby city of Shenzhen, and has retired from a second session on the publishing of Embryos Thursday afternoon.)

Scientists and ethicists have almost universally condemned the fact that he works prematurely, irresponsibly and unjustifiably by exposing girls to long-term risks associated with gene editing for minimal or no medical benefit. Some have a more nuanced vision. George Church, a geneticist from Harvard University, told Science he feels an "obligation to be balanced" and calls for the "extreme" international response.

Before the summit, the 14 organizers were undecided about writing a new declaration just three years after the last one. But after news of her study sparked an international outcry, "We had to" issue a new statement, said Jennifer Doudna of the University of California at UC Berkeley, a CRISPR pioneer and committee member. ;organization. The group's chairman, David Baltimore of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, has read the text to the public today.

The progress made over the past three years and the discussions that took place at the current summit … suggest that it is time to define a rigorous and responsible translation path to [clinical] trials.

Organizers of the Second International Summit on the Publishing of the Human Genome

Without mentioning his name, the statement refers to "an unexpected and deeply disturbing statement that human embryos have been modified and implanted, resulting in pregnancy and the birth of twins". The procedure was "irresponsible and did not comply with international standards," the organizers said. its alleged flaws include inadequate medical justification, a poorly designed protocol, a lack of protection for the welfare of babies and a lack of transparency at all stages of the study. The authors recommended an independent evaluation to verify that he claimed that the DNA modifications had been made.

The committee reiterated its position that it is too early for any clinical use of germ line modification. But the progress made over the last three years and the ongoing summit discussions suggest that it is time to define a rigorous and responsible translation path to [clinical] "Such a pathway will require the establishment of standards for preclinical evidence and the accuracy of gene modification, assessment of clinical trial practitioner competencies, enforceable standards of professional behavior, and strong partnerships with patients." and their advocacy groups. "

Some had hoped for a call to ban human trials for now. "Given the current state of genome editing technology, I am in favor of a moratorium on the implantation of published embryos … until we have it." first established a thoughtful set of security requirements, "said CRISPR pioneer, Feng Zhang, of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts said in a statement released on November 26. An online petition since yesterday and sent to the committee by email. The journalists urged the group to "call on governments and the United Nations to put in place enforceable moratoriums banning reproductive experiments using human genetic engineering." The petition, organized by the Center for Genetics and Society at Berkeley and Human Genetics Alert in London, attracted the support of 11 organizations and more than 100 people earlier in the day.

"We no longer believe that the scientific community can self – regulate," Jaydee Hanson of the International Center for the Evaluation of Technology in Washington said today. Hanson warned that if scientists refused to endorse a UN call for action, his groups and others would launch one.

The issue of self-regulation was raised several times during the meeting. At the end of today's meeting, Baltimore emphasized how difficult it is for the scientific community – or whoever – to master dishonest scientists. He has done research "has proven that if you want to use this technology surreptitiously, you can make a surprisingly long way," he said.

The organizers have announced that the next summit will be held in London, probably in 2021.

Source link