Crispr will lead to designer babies, says geneticist

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It’s worthwhile knowing what the scientist behind the deveopment of CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technology, thinks about the ethics of using it.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, geneticist Jennifer Doudna, of the University of California Berkeley, believes that designer babies are only a decade away.

But for the moment, she believes that there should be a moratorium on editing the human genome, especially for traits like eye colour and IQ. “It should not proceed until we have a chance to understand better how the technology operates in those kinds of cells, as well as to provide time for societal consideration,” she says. But she does believe that CRISPR should be used to cure genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. When the wrinkles are ironed out, CRISPR will become as common as IVF is nowadays.

“I wonder if over time people will get comfortable with the idea of human genome editing in embryos, at least if it were going to correct a mutation that would otherwise give rise to a debilitating lifetime disorder and maybe to even remove some kinds of debilitating bad diseases from the human genome completely.”

Tinkering with the genome is a momentous step, she acknowledges:

“It’s kind of a profound thing because if you really think about it; it really means altering human evolution on some level.”

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