Japan will allow genetic editing in human embryos
The aim will be research on early human development, not the manipulation of embryos for reproduction.
Japan has published a draft of standards and guidelines that allow the use of genetic editing tools in human embryos. The proposal was published last September 28 by a panel of experts representing the Ministries of Health and Science of the Japanese Country.
Although Japan already regulates the use of human embryos for research, so far there were no specific guidelines on the use of tools such as Crisp-Cas9 to make precise modifications to their DNA.
Tetsuya Ishii, a bioeticista at the University of Hokkaido in Sapporo, notes that before the draft guidelines were published, Japan’s position on gene editing in human embryos was neutral. The proposal now encourages this kind of research, he adds.
If they are finally adopted, these new standards would restrict the manipulation of human embryos for Reproduction.
DNA manipulation in the embryos could reveal information about early human Development. Experts hope that, in the long term, these tools can be used to correct the genetic mutations that cause disease, before they are Transmitted.
But the edition of genes in human embryos, even for research, has always been a topic of controversy. Ethics experts and many researchers fear that this technique can be used to alter the DNA of embryos for non-medical Reasons. Many countries prohibit this practice, allowing genetic editing tools to be used only in non-reproductive adult cells.
There are previous studies (at least 8 Worldwide) on gene editing in human embryos. Most of these studies were carried out in China and the United states, where the use of this technique does not infringe any law (provided it is done with private financing).
The new guidelines presented by Japan will be open to public commentary starting next month, and is likely to be implemented in the first half of 2019.