Prof. Levy-Lahad is Making Headlines!

Last week, the decision by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to allow scientists in Britain to study embryos for 14 days (for research purposes only) using a technique called CRISPR-Cas9 opened discussions around the world regarding the ethics of changing the genetic composition of embryos.

Professor Ephrat Levy-Lahad, Director of the Fuld Family Institute of Medical Genetics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and co-chair of the Israeli National Bioethics Council (jointly with Prof. Avraham Steinberg) explained, “Experiments using embryos are already taking place, for example using embryos to produce human embryonic stem cells. It’s all a question of what is the purpose of the study and at what stage of fetal development the experiment is performed,… The novelty [with this study in Britain] is the new technology which will be used which is very precise and can change certain genes and change one mutation or another. The study is focused on understanding what happens during the early development of the embryo. No one has approved experiments to produce people or to perform genetic alterations which can be passed from generation to generation…I was recently at the meeting of the American National Academy of Sciences that is about to publish a report on the potential uses of this technology and what should be done with it. Like any technological development, it can be used for “good” or “bad.” Our objective is to use it for good… We should be cognizant that people today are already using different methods to select the “perfect child.” For example, people perform ultrasounds during their pregnancy to detect abnormalities. And in some cases, when necessary, pregnancy terminations are performed based on those results… It’s a question of whether we think it is justified to prevent defects or not. These are questions society needs to grapple with…
In Israel there is also legislation and regulations regarding these topics. The relevant law is the Prohibition of Genetic Intervention (human cloning and genetic modification of reproductive cells). This law clearly prohibits human cloning and creating human reproductive cells. The experiments performed in Israel are mainly focused on improving the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process. In Israel, there are also many experiments with embryonic stem cells.”

 

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