Scientists call for the creation of a special institution for the care of genetically modified children

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers in China believe that we should do more to protect children born with gene-altered genes and propose building an institution to care for and study them.

Qiu Renzong, professor of philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Lei Ruipeng, a bioethicist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, wrote a proposal on how to care for “CRISPR babies,” or children whose genes have been edited, Nature reports.

The paper, which has not yet been published but has been seen by Nature, argues that errors may have occurred during the gene editing process. Therefore, the authors believe that the genomes of children should be regularly sequenced and analyzed for “abnormalities.”

The children in question were obtained from embryos that underwent gene editing in 2018. He Jiankui, the researcher who edited the embryos, was imprisoned for his actions. However, according to the magazine, he should be released in the coming months.

Although the authors of the proposal say that children may not be affected by any errors in the gene editing process, they believe that regular genome monitoring is best to ensure their safety.

“This is our desire,” Qiu said in an interview with Nature, speaking of the possibility that the children’s genes would not be affected. “But who can be sure of that?”

Despite the intrigue, their proposal caused a serious rebuff from the international medical community. Many are concerned about unnecessary intrusion into children’s privacy.

“Special protective measures could also lead to more intense surveillance,” Eben Crixey, a medical anthropologist at the Alfred Deakin Institute, told the magazine.

It seems likely that as gene-editing technology improves, it will eventually become commercially available, meaning more gene-edited babies will be born. So, despite the fears, there are compelling arguments in favor of starting to recognize the risks now.

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