Reversibility of genome editing

The peculiarity of genome editing on germ cells is that genetic changes usually affect all cells. Thus, if a genetic change made at the germ cell stage is to be reversed, this change could affect all cells of the growing human. However, somatic gene therapy is usually limited in the range of those cells that can be altered. The changes made to the germ cells are therefore usually irreversible. If undesirable side effects occur that can be attributed to the genetic modification, the affected individuals could receive concomitant somatic gene therapy. PGD or renewed germline therapy may be used to prevent the transmission of genetic modifications in the context of reproduction. This partial possibility of reversing genome editing processes on germ cells underlines the need for quantifying the benefit more clearly to outweigh possible risks, considering that the process is mostly irreversible.

Further information: 

Aslan, S. E. / Beck, B. / Deuring, S. / von Fallois, M. / Leidenfrost, R. / Primc, N. / Rubeis, G. / Rüther, M. / Hähnel, M. / Schnieder, K. / Haltaufderheide, J. (2018): Genom-Editierung in der Humanmedizin: Ethische und rechtliche Aspekte von Keimbahneingriffen beim Menschen. In: CfB-Drucksache 4: 10. 

Albrecht, S. / König, H. / Sauter, A. (2021): Genome Editing am Menschen. Endbericht zum Monitoring. TAB-Arbeitsbericht Nr. 191. Berlin: Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag (TAB): 90, 98. Online Version(German)

Chneiweiss, H. / Hirsch F. / Montoliu L. / Müller A. M. / Fenet, S. / Abecassis, M. / Merchant, J. / Baertschi, B. / Botbol-Baum, M./ Houghton, J. A. / Kritikos, M. / Mifsud, J. / Bartnik E. / Rath, J. / Druml, C. / Friedrich, B. / Carvalho, A. S. / Lanzerath D. / Saint-Raymond, A. (2017): Fostering responsible research with genome editing technologies: a European perspective. Transgenic Research (26), 709–713.  Online Version

Deutscher Ethikrat (2019): Eingriffe in die menschliche Keimbahn. Stellungnahme: 72. Online Version(German)

German Ethics Council (2019): Intervening in the Human Germline. Opinion. Executive Summary & Reccomendations Online Version

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