The Brave New World: Should we tread down the path to human germline editing?

S Soni


Gene-editing tools such as the CRISPR-Cas9 system create an opportunity for individuals to have their DNA edited for specific purposes. Somatic cell editing targets specific cells in an individual, and is aimed at providing a therapeutic mechanism to correct a genetic disease or condition. Germline editing refers to the editing of the DNA of embryos or gametes, which creates edits that are heritable. Following the announcement in 2018 that the Chinese scientist He Jiankui had proceeded to gene-edit human embryos, a moratorium on germline editing was quickly proposed. While an objective of the moratorium was to prevent clinical application of germline editing, it also served as an opportunity to engage in global debate on the issues inherent in gene editing. Heritable editing has become an ethically controversial topic in bioethics, and this article undertakes to provide a primer in the existing national and international legal framework for gene editing, as well as description of the prominent current views of heritable germline editing.

Author's affiliations

S Soni, School of Law, College of Law and Management Studies, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2021;14(1):24. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.2021.v14i1.00713

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-04-19
Date published: 2021-04-19

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