12.01.2016

The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board recommends allowing human germ line editing for basic research.

Recent technological advances, especially with the advent of CRISPR/Cas9-technology, make it possible to edit the DNA of all cell types, including germ cells and embryos. This has sparked widespread international ethical debate.

Now, a majority of 12 out of 15 members of the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, an independent advisory body to the Norwegian Government, has voted to allow germ line editing for basic research. A prerequisite is that embryos are surplus fertilized eggs donated to research by couples undergoing IVF-treatment. Furthermore, the research can only be conducted before the embryo is 14 days old, in line with current restrictions on embryo research.

«Gene function can best be understood by studying what happens when the genes are modified. Research on genetically edited embryos and germ cells can therefore provide valuable knowledge about human biology and disease. When embryo research per se is permitted, as it is in Norway, researchers should get the opportunity to utilise the best methods», says the Board Chairperson, Kristin Halvorsen, who voted with the majority.

Current Norwegian legislation (The Biotechnology Act) prohibits introduction of genetic changes that can be inherited in humans. This is interpreted as a ban on any genetic modification of human germ cells or embryos, even for basic research. The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board recommends that this ban should not include basic research where germ cells or embryos are not used to establish a pregnancy.

Embryo research in Norway is only permitted for certain purposes, including development of methods for assisted reproduction and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), and research to gain knowledge that can lead to future treatments for serious diseases. The Board recommends that the same restrictions should apply to research involving germ line editing. Additionally, the research should not involve development of methods for clinical application of germ line editing.

The Norwegian Government is expected to issue a white paper on the current Biotechnology Act by late 2016 or 2017, which may be followed by a proposal for legislative changes.

Click here to read the Advisory Board´s full statement (in Norwegian).

 

The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board is an independent body appointed by the Norwegian government. The Board is consulted on matters regarding ethical and societal aspects of biotechnology. This statement represents the views of the members of the Board, and does not necessarily coincide with Norwegian government policy. The board members represent a broad range of perspectives and expertise.

Siden ble opprettet: 12.01.2016. Siden ble oppdatert: 12.01.2016

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