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Gene Editing

WHO issues human genome–editing recommendations

by Jyllian Kemsley
July 18, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 26


The World Health Organization has issued the first global recommendations and a governance framework for safe, effective, and ethical use of human genome editing for public health. The guidance comes after 2 years of work by an expert advisory committee the WHO created after news broke in 2018 that babies had been born from embryos whose genes had been changed using CRISPR technology. The recommendations cover international collaboration; human genome–editing registries; intellectual property; education and empowerment; and illegal, unethical, or unsafe research. For example, in addition to existing clinical trial registries, the recommendations say the WHO should work with the international scientific community to develop a registry for basic and preclinical research and to “develop an assessment mechanism to identify clinical trials using human genome editing technologies that may be of concern.” In a statement announcing the release of the recommendations, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan says, “As global research delves deeper into the human genome, we must minimize risks and leverage ways that science can drive better health for everyone, everywhere.”


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