Japan has announced new guidance which might to allow gene editing in human embryos.
The draft guidelines will allow gene-editing for research into early human development. Released by a panel of health experts at the end of September the new guidelines will clarify how researchers are allowed to modify human embryos. Up to now, there has been no specific guidance on how new techniques, like CRISPR–Cas9, can be used to make changes to human DNA>
Speaking to Nature, bioethicist Tetsuya Ishii explained that the proposal marks a shift Japan’s neutral stance on human gene-editing; with the proposal designed to encourage further research in the field.
The guidelines would place strict limits on what would be allowed to be manipulated for reproductive purposes. Ethical concerns around gene editing in humans have seen many countries ban gene-editing techniques for reproductive purposes. Limiting gene-editing tools for use only in adult non-reproductive cells.
However, while the proposal in Japan does set limits on reproductive gene editing they are not legally binding.
In the short term, it is hoped that by better understanding DNA in embryos researchers can better understand early human development. In the longer term, the tools developed might be able to cure genetic diseases.
The proposal is only in its draft stage and will be open for a public consultation in November. Japan intends to implement the proposal in early 2019.