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Designer babies: Moratorium on genome editing needed, say experts

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Experts from seven countries have called for a moratorium on the kind of genetic manipulation -- known as germline editing -- used last year to permanently modify the genome of twin girls in Shenzhen, China.

Chinese scientist He Jiankui's announcement in November that he had altered their DNA using molecular scissors -- ostensibly to prevent them from contracting HIV -- provoked a global backlash from scientists saying the untested procedure was unethical and potentially dangerous.

"We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing -- that is, changing the heritable DNA in sperm, eggs or embryos to make genetically modified children," the researchers said in a joint statement, published in the scientific journal Nature.

"The introduction of genetic modifications into future generations could have permanent and possibly harmful effects on the species," they warned.

About 30 nations currently have legislation directly or indirectly barring all clinical use of germline editing.

CRISPR-Cas9 technology -- which combines DNA strands with an enzyme to achieve ultra-precise genome editing --........

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