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Dec 01, 2015 10:27 PM EST

Scientists and ethicists debate over editing of genes in human embryo


The use of the powerful gene editing tools in human eggs, sperms and embryos that can change the DNA of unborn children is giving rise to heated debates between scientists and ethicists, Reuters reports.

Scientists and ethicists gathered at an international summit on Tuesday to discuss the powerful new technology, CRISPR-Cas9, that has the ability to modify genes quickly and efficiently.

The three-day Washington meeting was convened by the National Academies of Medicine and Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of the United Kingdom

Several groups have already called for restrictions on the use of CRISPR-Cas9.

Hille Haker, chair of Catholic Moral Theology at Loyola University Chicago said that there should be a two-year international ban on research that involves changing human reproductive cells, also known as germline cells.

Haker argued that changing the DNA of unborn children violated the freedom of the unborn children, who would not have an opportunity to agree to changes in their genetic code.

But there are several who support the use of the technology.

John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester in Britain, argued in favor of the technology.

"We all have an inescapable moral duty: To continue with scientific investigation to the point at which we can make a rational choice. We are not yet at that point. It seems to me, consideration of a moratorium is the wrong course. Research is necessary," Harris said.

The supporters of the technology say that it can play an important role in the prevention of hereditary diseases, while the opponents feel that it will lead to a temptation to have offspring with greater intelligence or athletic ability.

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