According to the results of the two-day meeting, held under the auspices of the World Health Organization, 18 members of the specially created Committee for the first time agreed to develop international control measures over the experiments in humane genome's editing.
"Editing the genome opens up huge opportunities in health care, at the same time, this area of science is associated with risks, both ethical and medical, - said the head of WHO Tedros Adhanom. "The work of the Committee is an example where leading scientists have come together under the auspices of WHO to solve a very difficult task."
The term "genome editing" refers to a set of technologies that allow changing the DNA of living organisms – adding, removing or modifying genetic material. With their help it is possible, for example, to remove the embryo's gene, which is responsible for the development of a painful disease. At the same time, the use of such a tool can lead to undesirable and unpredictable consequences, for example, the creation of a"Superman".
Over the past two days, experts have discussed discussed the current state of science and its possibilities: at the moment, the person has not yet fully mastered the technology of genome editing and many of the risks are theoretical. Nevertheless, WHO is convinced that the time to act has come. Members of the Committee believe that the process of work on the package of controls should be transparent and involve all stakeholders. They also believe that until the recommendations are developed, no one should conduct clinical trials related to the genome editing. Such experiments at this stage were called "irresponsible" by the participants of the meeting.
The Commitee's members also decided that all ongoing research in this area should be reflected in a single database, a special register. The Committee requested WHO to establish such a register immediately. They have also invited all scientists conducting such studies to engage in dialogue to assess the conditions, in which they work, and to ensure that ethical and medical standards are respected. "To make the results of such research helpful for the people, and minimize the risk, the Committee will develop recommendations for all those working with new technologies," - promised Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief researcher of WHO.
In the next two years, members of the Committee will discuss the ethical issues of human genome editing experiments with scientists and other stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society and academia. Interviews will be conducted both in person and online.