Designer babies may be 'morally' acceptable, United Kingdom ethics council decides

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This is not now permitted under United Kingdom law, but could allow parents to exclude an inherited disease or predisposition to cancer in their unborn child in the future.

"There must be action now to support public debate and to put in place appropriate governance".

GENOME editing, which critics fear might lead to "designer babies", could be considered "morally acceptable", according to an independent report.

Genome editing, which targets DNA sequences in living cells, could in theory be used to change the human embryo before it is transferred to the womb.

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The scientists said they would "not rule out" uses such as ensuring children were tall and attractive.

For them, genome editing in assisted reproduction needs to secure the welfare of the future person.

"It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself", said Karen Yeung, chair of the Nuffield working group and professor of law, ethics, and informatics at the University of Birmingham. DNA that is damaged during the procedure could be passed down to future generations.

Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said it was "an absolute disgrace" that the Nuffield Council had not rejected the idea.

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Now there are reproductive options available to prospective parents facing possibility of passing on inherited genetic disorders that genome editing may be used alongside with such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis which involves testing embryos for genetic characteristics and selecting one (s) with preferred sets of characteristics.

It recommends that two overarching principles should be adhered to when considering use of heritable genome editing interventions in order for them be ethically acceptable: they must be meant to secure the welfare of the future person; and they should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society. Great advances are happening in the field showing that genes alone do not shape a person, the possibility of using this technology to secure and/or avoid characteristics in a person offers a new approach that is likely to appeal to a great many prospective parents.

The council's report recommends any interventions must be in the interests of the social, physical and psychological welfare of the future person, and "should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society".

Heritable genome editing involves making targeted changes to the genome of embryo, sperm or egg cells, resulting in alterations which can be transmitted stably through generations.

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