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New gene editing technique CRISPR-Cas9 raises important ethical questions, says advisory body

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5318 (Published 30 September 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i5318
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

New techniques for editing genes could transform biological research, with almost unlimited potential, says a new report from the UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics.1 But the advent of a cheap, precise, and widely used technique, known as CRISPR-Cas9, also raises ethical and moral issues that need to be resolved, says the council.

The technique, involving clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) of DNA and CRISPR associated protein 9 (Cas9), allows an individual gene to be targeted and cut precisely. CRISPR-Cas9 comprises a set of generic “scissors” to cut DNA and a guide in the form of a length of RNA that takes the scissors to the exact point where the cut is desired. Once cut, the DNA repairs itself, incorporating another section of DNA introduced at the same time.

In principle, it could …

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