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Ethical questions surface as scientists advance gene-editing work


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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic observers and others are raising ethical questions about the work of an international team of scientists who report that they were able to edit the DNA in human embryos to correct a health disorder.

The questions focus on two concerns: the creation of human embryos for scientific experimentation and then destruction, and the still-unknown effect that changing DNA will have on future generations because the changes could become a permanent part of a family's genetic line.

The success reported by the scientists in work funded by the Oregon Health and Science University worries observers, who said that it could lead to the development of "designer babies" with traits that make them seem superior.

"Now we're specifically manufacturing human embryos solely for the purpose of doing lethal experiments on them. I think the public needs to be well aware of that and hopefully horrified by that reality," said Gregory Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

"Certainly there should be concerns about genetically modifying human beings in a way that we don't really know what effect that will have to subsequent generations," he told Catholic News Service.

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