As the scientific community weighs the risks and rewards of CRISPR, a controversial gene-editing tool, scientists in New York City are moving forward with experiments changing DNA on human sperm. In response to these new germline (heritable) experiments and the broader conversation surrounding CRISPR, Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research and education arm of Susan B. Anthony List, released the following statement:
“Use of CRISPR to manipulate genes or remove them entirely from the human germline presents a host of scientific and ethical questions that we can’t possibly answer at this time,” said Dr. David Prentice, CLI’s vice president and research director, “Nowhere is this more evident than how researchers describe the ‘theoretical’ benefits of germline editing, but theoretical is all this is. We simply don’t have any ability to ascertain the long-term effects germline mutation will have on future generations who inherit a mutated gene or the lack of a gene. Our focus should be on helping patients, not on designer babies.”
Just yesterday, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, a group representing companies involved in cell and gene therapy and regenerative medicine, released a statement articulating their principles for using gene editing in medicine, noting their support for therapeutic uses but not for germline gene editing. ARM’s statement comes following last week’s announcement that reproductive biologists at Weill Cornell Medicine are conducting controversial experiments to edit DNA in human sperm with the goal of making heritable changes in the human genome.
Prentice has more than four decades of experience in life sciences including stem cells, cloning, cell biology, cell culture, genetics, biotechnology, bioethics, as well as life-related research and policy advising.
Charlotte Lozier Institute was launched in 2011 as the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List. CLI is a hub for research and public policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and nations around the world. The Institute is named for a feminist physician known for her commitment to the sanctity of human life and equal career and educational opportunities for women.