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Smer Comments: The technique CRISPR-Cas9 and possibilities to edit the human genome

In July 2015, the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics  published a “Smer Comment” on the subject CRISPR-Cas9 and possibilities to edit the human genome. The technique CRISPR-Cas9 has been described as a revolution in gene technology and holds promises for methods such as ecological engineering and somatic gene therapy. It has also caused an international debate about possible future use, including human germline modification.

The document from Smer includes a brief review of the international debate (with focus on the article by Baltimore et al. A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification. Science 2015;348 (6230): 36-38) supplemented with comments from the Council. The main conclusions from the Council are:

  • The Council is optimistic about the possibilities that the technique CRISPR-Cas9 may provide, especially regarding somatic gene therapy for treatment of serious diseases.
  • Research on embryos with the technique may also provide useful results, e.g. regarding infertility or stem cell therapy. According to the Council, the current regulation in Sweden is well balanced. (It allows experiments on embryos up to 14 days after fertilization, after that the embryo must be discarded. Experiments that introduce inheritable gene modifications are forbidden.)
  • The research community should proceed with caution regarding experiments  that aim to introduce inheritable gene modifications. It is way too early to perform clinical experiments  today, considering the limited knowledge about medical risks and other possible effects. It must also be taken into consideration that there are other methods available to avoid serious inheritable diseases.
  • The Council agrees with the article authors (with reference to Baltimore et al. 2015) that a broad debate should be encouraged regarding the possibilities to introduce germline gene modifications.

The complete document has not been translated in it’s whole. Find the document in Swedish.