It’s a hugely controversial idea, but genetically edited ‘designer babies’ could be on the horizon, after a science council concluded that DNA editing human embryos could be ‘morally permissible’.
The technique could be used to ‘edit out’ genetic illnesses, or predispositions to deadly cancers, but the Nuffield Council did not rule out other uses, even cosmetic ones.
The Nuffield Council advises governments on bioethics based on new advances in technology.
The scientists said they would ‘not rule out’ uses such as ensuring children were tall and attractive.
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Under current law, scientists are allowed to genetically edit human embryos for 14 days for research, but they must be destroyed, and it’s illegal to implant them in the womb.
Professor Karen Yeung of the Nuffield Council said, ‘There is potential for heritable genome editing interventions to be used at some point in the future in assisted human reproduction, as a means for people to secure certain characteristics in their children.
‘Initially, this might involve preventing the inheritance of a specific genetic disorder. However, if the technology develops it has potential to become an alternative strategy available to parents for achieving a wider range of goals.
‘Whilst there is still uncertainty over the sorts of things genome editing might be able to achieve, or how widely its use might spread, we have concluded that the potential use of genome editing to influence the characteristics of future generations is not unacceptable in itself.’