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Dr James Davies from our MRC Molecular Haematology Unit writes in The Conversation about genome editing, its power for good... and the ethical issues that we are already facing.

Chromosomes 1 © CC BY 4.0 Wessex Reg. Genetics Centre

We are entering a new era as a species. For the first time, we are not only able to read our genetic code but also edit it. This will revolutionise our ability to treat disease and it will improve the lives of millions if not billions of people. But it means that, if we want to, we can now edit human embryos to “improve” the characteristics of our children. We will be able to create designer babies and these changes will be passed on to their descendants, which will change the human species forever.

It is worth thinking about the scale of what we can now do. The human genome is made up of 3 billion characters, which is about ten times the size of Encyclopaedia Britannica. This contains all the information needed to make a human, and it determines nearly all our characteristics as individuals (not only height, athletic performance and IQ but also our personality and even political views). We completed the first sequence of the human genome around 20 years ago at a cost of US$2.7 billion. We can now sequence a genome for less than the cost of an MRI scan.

Read the full piece here.