It Should Be Legal To Hack Your DNAGeorge Dvorsky3/24/15 7:00pmFiled to: In Defense Ofbioethicsbiotechnologygermline modificationscrispr/cas9genomicsdesigner babieshuman enhancementenhancementtherapyethicsriskreproductive rightsassisted reproductionscience15111EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkA group of geneticists has called for a moratorium on research into modifying heritable human DNA — a practice that could lead to so-called "designer babies." But as scientists consider this drastic proposal, they should also recognize the potential benefits this technology could afford – and the risks of an outright ban.AdvertisementBefore we begin, you should be familiar with the two broad types of gene therapy. So-called "somatic" gene therapies target the non-reproductive cells of the body, and affect only the patient receiving the therapy. In other words, the genes addressed by somatic gene therapies are not heritable. Germline gene therapies, in contrast, are genome-editing techniques that affect egg and sperm cells. The modification of these germ cells can result in all the cells in the organism containing the modified genetic information, which would allow the altered code to be passed down to subsequent generations. In an editorial published earlier this month at Nature, geneticist Edward Lanphier and four other researchers currently investigating somatic gene therapies call for a temporary ban on germline gene therapy, citing "grave concerns regarding the ethical and safety implications of [research into germline gene therapies]." The authors also express fear that such research could have a "negative impact... on important work involving the use of genome-editing techniques in somatic (non-reproductive) cells" – i.e. their own research.