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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Gene editing to correct genetic diseases isn't ready to be safely used in human eggs, sperm and embryos for pregnancies, according to a new report that lays out detailed criteria for determining when and how the technology could ultimately be used.

Why it matters: Scientists, ethicists and others have called for international rules — ranging from guidelines to regulations to moratoriums — for the editing of human genes that can be passed down to future generations.

Key takeaways: Human embryos that are used in a pregnancy shouldn't be edited before the technology can "efficiently and reliably make precise genomic changes without undesired changes," according to the report, written by 18 experts from 10 countries, including the U.S., China, the U.K. and India. (Off-target edits are a continued challenge for the field.)

  • Another technological advance is needed: the ability to reliably sequence the entire genome in a single cell to check for off-target effects, commission member Haoyi Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said during a press conference today.
  • "Extensive societal dialogue" about the social and ethical issues of embryo genome editing should occur before a country decides whether to permit it.
  • If the technology is one day deemed safe, effective and permissible, the group says its use should first be restricted to serious diseases that arise from mutations in a single gene — for example, sickle cell anemia and thalassemia — and then only when parents don't have other options for having a biologically related child who doesn't inherit the disorder.

Ultimately, countries will likely regulate the technology's use, and the report calls for national and international mechanisms for overseeing the use of human genome editing in clinical settings and for whistleblowers to report misconduct.

  • It also recommends forming an international panel of scientific advisers to review and make recommendations about proposed new applications of "heritable human genome editing."

What they're saying: Some researchers told Jon Cohen of Science the commission's criteria for editing human embryos are too narrow, while others said the guidelines reflect the limited medical justifications for using the technology.

Background: The International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing was set up by the UK's Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Medicine after a researcher in China claimed twin girls were born from embryos he changed with the gene-editing tool CRISPR in an attempt to make them immune to HIV infection.

What to watch: The World Health Organization is drawing up its guidelines for governing genome editing technology more broadly. The report released today is intended to inform those guidelines, which will also consider ethical and social challenges.

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February
  2. Vaccines: Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker

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