Human embryo genetic editing: hope or pipe dream?

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VOLUME 116, ISSUE 1, P25-26

Authors:

Inmaculada de Melo-Martín, Ph.D., M.S., Zev Rosenwaks, M.D.

Abstract:

Like many other technological developments in reproductive medicine, human embryo genetic editing has generated considerable hope and excitement, although it has also provoked great apprehension. The excitement and hope rooted in this technology are understandable. Genome editing tools, such as CRISPR-Cas9, promise to transform biomedical research and clinical care. The Nobel Prize awarded in 2020 to its developers, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, recognized the groundbreaking nature of this genomic tool (1). With it, scientists can now add, remove, or alter genetic material at specific locations in the genome. For instance, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats-Cas9 (CRISPR-Cas9) is significantly more efficient, accurate, and affordable than older technologies used for genomic manipulations.

Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. 

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Go to the profile of Pandiyan  Natarajan
27 days ago

Human Embryo genetic editing is still a pipe dream.

Gene editing by CRISPR- Cas 9 is indeed a major advance in Genetic therapy. However, Embryo Gene Editing is a different ball game as has been highlighted by the authors. It certainly offers great hope for couple with homozygous single gene disorders, but is unlikely to be of any great benefit to people with polygenic disorders.

DNA is not our destiny. While genome does play a crucial role in phenotype, the environment through epigenetic mechanisms also shape the phenotype. Gene editing may not have any influence whatsoever in altering or interfering with epigenetic mechanisms.

Gene editing to enhance physical attributes like intelligence, athleticism or musical talent is most unlikely to be helped by gene editing as these are not necessarily genetic. Many of these talents are 99% perspiration ( efforts ) and 1% inspiration ( genetic ).

There may also be unintended consequences of gene editing. Most gene actions are not linear. As has been beautifully pointed out in the article, single genes have multiple functions and multiple genes interact and co operate to perform a single function. Gene editing may lead to off target effects or may not even have the intended effects. 

As Science stands today I feel Human Embryo genetic editing is still a pipe dream.

Professor Dr Pandiyan Natarajan,

Professor and Head of the Department of Andrology and Reproductive Medicine,

Chettinad Super Speciality Hospital,

Chettinad Academy of Research and Education,

Kelambakkam,

Chennai,

Tamil Nadu, 

India - 603103.