Clinical trials using “gene editing” or “genetic engineering” techniques are increasing. These techniques use nucleases to modify the genome.
Recently, in early March 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised a phase I clinical trial focusing on the safety of a genetic engineering treatment to combat HIV.
“Haematopoietic stem cells will be collected from seropositive patients and processed with zinc finger nuclease targeted on the gene coding for the CCR5 protein – a receptor used by HIV to enter and infect cells. Cells carrying the mutation will therefore be retransfused as a potential anti-HIV treatment”. The results of this phase I study will be known in 2015.
Although these genome imprinting techniques look promising, ethical questions nevertheless emerge: “For ethical and safety reasons, scientists should not use germinal cells (spermatozoa and oocytes) or embryos“. In fact, these handling procedures would trigger genome changes in the offspring. Furthermore, the safety of these techniques for future generations remains unknown.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding changes in future generations as a result of handling germinal cells, Great Britain approved three-parent IVF – a technique based on this type of procedure.
To set limits within the international scientific community, scientists have published a debate in the Nature journal requesting a moratorium on genetic modifications to human reproductive cells.
Bulletins électroniques USA 20/03/2015 – Gènéthique