WHO issues recommendations on Human Genome Editing

World Health Organisation (WHO) has released two new companion reports, providing first global recommendations that will help in establishing human genome editing as a tool for public health.

Highlights

  • It also emphasises on safety, effectiveness and ethics.
  • Report was prepared by 18 members of Committee in two years. Apart from that, they developed several products and new initiatives.
  • Governance framework on human genome editing form a set of two publications providing advice & recommendations on institutional, national, regional & global governance mechanisms for human genome editing.

Significance of Human Genome Editing

Potential benefits of human genome editing are:

  1. New strategies for diagnosis, treatment & prevention of genetic disorders
  2. New avenues of treating infertility
  3. New ways of promoting disease resistance
  4. Contribution towards development of vaccine and enhanced knowledge of human biology.

How Genome Editing can address diseases?

Somatic gene therapies involve modification in patient’s DNA to treat or cure any disease. This technique has been successfully used to cure HIV, sickle-cell disease and transthyretin amyloidosis. It could also improve treatment for cancers.

Is genome editing risky?

Yes, some risks exist with this technique. For instance, germline and heritable human genome editing alter genome of human embryos. It can be passed on to subsequent generations to modify descendants’ traits.

WHO’s recommendations

Reports recommends on governance and oversight of human genome editing across nine discrete areas such as human genome editing registries, international research & medical travel; education, engagement & empowerment; illegal, unregistered, unethical or unsafe research and intellectual property.  It also focuses on systems-level improvements which is required to build capacity across India to ensure safety & efficacy of human genome editing.

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