Research using genome-editing techniques should continue

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Medical experts, researchers and scientists have come together in support for continued use of CRISPR-Cas9, other genome-editing techniques in pre-clinical research.

The call comes in a form of an joint statement by a group of leading UK research organisations including the Academy of Medical Science (AMS), the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust.

The organisations have urged that use of genome-editing techniques should be continued for research purposes in human reproductive cells and early embryos, where this is fully justified, scientifically and ethically, and within the confines of the law. The organisations have said that this type of research to be allowed to continue and have called for a broad and inclusive discussion about genome editing and its future implications.

Genome editing is one of the most powerful research tool and the most promising one as well as it allowed researchers to cut out sections of the DNA that are known to cause genetic disorders and replace them with non-mutated genes. Genome editing is not a new concept, but recently invented methods including CRISPR-Cas9 system have paved way for targeted, highly efficient editing of DNA in cells.

Genome editing looks promising against almost all genetic disorders and research in the area of using this technology against diseases including HIV, sickle-cell disease and haemophilia, is already under progress. Researchers say that genome editing is emerging as one of the strongest candidates to deal with cancers.

The organisations state this is one area of technology that has immense potential and its use in pre-clinical research will enable scientists to better understand human biology. The organisations have also said that if the research is allowed to be continued it will help UK to continue its dominance in the world of research and development.

Organisations appreciated the strong regulatory framework surrounding research in the UK, but said that as genome editing technologies evolve, it is necessary for the framework to remain robust and adapt so as to realise the full potential of genome editing in a scientific, ethical and legally rigorous way.