So you may know that one of the topics I’m interested in is Gene editing and its potential for treating rare disease. Well this weeks big news story across the world was about a Chinese researcher and his team who decided to move beyond the testing of gene editing in controlled clinical trials straight into human embryos. Even stranger rather than attempting to treat a patient with a rare disease he chose to modify healthy embryos to make them resistant to HIV.
As you can imagine the scientific world reacted with shock and disbelief. I also felt the need to put my opinion out there with the following comment on the story that was emerging….“Gene editing tools are fantastic for research but we are still not able to control them well enough to ensure they are safe and efficient for use in humans. The scientists who carried out these studies chose to focus on a gene associated with risk of HIV, however we already have ways to prevent HIV infection and available treatments should it occur. We also do not need gene editing to ensure it isn’t passed on to offspring. We know very little about the long term effects, and most people would agree that experimentation on humans for an avoidable condition just to improve our knowledge is morally and ethically unacceptable. Whether the results stand up to scrutiny or not we need as a society to think hard and fast about when and where we are willing to take the risks that come with any new therapeutic treatment, particularly ones that could affect future generations.”
Interestingly the story itself reached beyond the scientific community into the general public - a group that should rightly be interested in gene editing, its potentials and currently pitfalls/safety concerns. I agreed to speak to a couple of radio shows - firstly Patrick Chrystys lunch time show on LoveSport Radio, and then later Sputnik International. You can hear both my interviews on the Outreach Page of the website.