National Academy of Medicine

Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance

A Report from the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine

Gene Editing Report Cover FINALHuman Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance, a new comprehensive report from the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, is now available as a free PDF download.

Genome editing is a powerful new tool for making precise alterations to an organism’s genetic material. Recent scientific advances have made genome editing more efficient, precise, and flexible than ever before. The possible applications for such technologies are many.  In humans, the technologies could offer a cure to often devastating genetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease and sickle cell anemia, and help improve understanding and treatment of many other illnesses.

The speed at which these technologies are being developed and applied has led many policymakers and stakeholders to express concern about whether appropriate systems are in place to govern these technologies and how and when the public should be engaged in these decisions.

In this new report, the committee sets forth criteria that must be met before permitting clinical trials of heritable germline editing, provides conclusions on the crucial need for public education and engagement, and presents 7 general principles for the governance of human genome editing.

Key Messages from the Report 

  • Genome editing in the context of basic research and somatic gene therapy is valuable and adequately regulated
  • Somatic therapy should be used only for treatment and prevention of disease and disability; it should not be tried for enhancement at this time; public engagement and input is needed
  • Heritable genome editing needs more research before it might be ready to be tried; also, public input and engagement needed
  • When tried, heritable genome editing must be approached cautiously: used only for treating or preventing severe diseases (no enhancement), and according to strict criteria with stringent oversight 

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To learn more about the NAS/NAM human gene editing initiative, please visit nationalacademies.org/gene-editing.