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Designer babies can only be two years old, says the expert



Gene editing now poses such low risks that it can be used in human embryos, according to an analysis by Kevin Smith, a bioethicist at the University of Abertai in Scotland, published last week in the journal Bioethics.

Proponents like Smith want to change the genetic makeup of embryos to prevent the transmission of gene-related diseases.

However, the practice is extremely controversial for fear that it may be used to create "designer babies" whose genes have been edited for non-therapeutic purposes.

But Smith says creating them is ethically justified and would offer hope for parents at risk of transmitting a serious genetic disease to their offspring, according to a statement.

  The scientist, the twins, and the experiment that the geneticists say went too far

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Genetic modification would allow doctors to protect future people against cardio- vascular disease, cancer and dementia, as well as other common ailments, Smith said.

"If several common disorders can be avoided or delayed by genetically modifying humans, the average disease-free life can be significantly extended," he says in a press release.

Smith recommends delaying programs for genetic modification, as at present "society is largely opposed to human genetic modification. "

However, he believes it is ethical to attempt to generate genetically modified babies in less than two years.

  New gene editing technology can correct 89% of genetic defects

Criticism

His work has been criticized by other experts in the field, who point out that the risks of gene editing are still under study.

"I do not believe that there are adequate experiments that will 'prove' that this technologist it safe, "said Joyce Harper from University College London (UCL) Institute for Women's Health [19659018] to the Science Media Center (SMC) in London. "That's why we have to tread carefully."

Harper emphasizes that genome editing has enormous potential, but calls for "public debate and legislation to ensure that we carefully consider it."

Sarah Norcross, Director of The Progress Educational Trust (PET), an organization working to improve public understanding of genetics, called Smith's analysis "insufficient."

Norcross states that the public may not change its mind about genetically modified babies and should more work is being done in crashes the risk of technology.

"The lessons should be learned from the mistakes made last year by a Chinese scientist responsible for the first babies to be genome-edited in the world," Norcross told SMC.

"If this technology is to be used in the future, then much higher scientific and ethical standards must be met."

Authorities in China have since said that experiments leading to the birth of babies violated the laws of the country and the participating scientists were stopped.
In October, researchers at the MIT Broad Institute and Harvard published details of a new gene editing technology that could potentially correct up to 89% of genetic defects, including those that cause diseases like sickle cell anemia.

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