Editing genes to create ‘designer babies’ in order to enhance their looks or intelligence could be ‘morally permissible’, UK ethics council says
- Nuffield Council on Bioethics said key issues were welfare of future person
- Added it should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society
- Ruled editing not unacceptable in itself and no reason to rule it out in principle
Creating ‘designer babies’ to enhance their looks or intelligence could be morally acceptable, according to an expert report.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said the key issues in genome editing were the welfare of the future person and the wider impact on society. The body, which explores ethical questions raised by advances in biology and medicine, called on the Government to support public debate on the issue and ensure a ‘responsible way forward’. It is now becoming possible to alter DNA in a human embryo, potentially correcting genetic diseases. However there is also the possibility of enhancing intelligence or selecting for height or hair colour.
Genome editing involves changing the DNA in an embryo – cutting out and replacing parts of the genetic code. Under the technique, which is not permitted in the UK, the altered embryo is then implanted in the womb.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has concluded that genome editing could be morally acceptable (file photo)
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Professor Karen Yeung, chairman of the Nuffield Council’s working party, said: ‘We have concluded that … genome editing could be morally acceptable.
‘More specifically, it is our view that … genome editing is not unacceptable in itself, and therefore there is no reason to rule it out in principle.’ The council’s report recommends any interventions must be in the interests of the social, physical and psychological welfare of the future person, and ‘should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society’.
- A technique used to manipulate DNA can cause unexpected damage, a study shows. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, tested the CRISPR/Cas9 process and detected ‘scrambling’ of the genetic code, with sections deleted and replaced.
The council’s report recommends any interventions must be in the interests of the social, physical and psychological welfare of the future person, and ‘should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society’ (file photo)
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