Page URL:

Japan prepares to allow genome editing in human embryos

8 October 2018
Appeared in BioNews 970

Japan has introduced draft guidelines on genome editing that would permit the use of the approach, including CRISPR/Cas9, in human embryos for research purposes. 

While not legally binding, the guidelines would restrict the use of genome editing in human embryos intended for reproduction. 

The draft guidelines were published by an expert panel representing the country's health and science ministries last month, following a request by the Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation to the Japanese government for guidance in this area, the Japan News reports

While Japan regulates human embryo research, Nature News reports that it does not have specific guidelines on genome editing. According to Dr Tetsuya Ishii, a bioethicist at Hokkaido University, Japan's approach to genome editing was previously neutral. However, Dr Ishii said that the proposed introduction of the guidelines now indicates support of the techniques and will encourage research in this field. 

Japan has a strong history of research in biotechnology, with Professor Shinya Yamanaka of the University of Kyoto sharing the Nobel prize for medicine or physiology in 2012 for his involvement in the creation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells (see BioNews  676). Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind clinical trial using iPS cells to treat patients with Parkinson's disease was announced (BioNews 961).

However, Japan has also had its share of controversy in this area of research. In 2014, two papers purporting to describe the production of so-called 'STAP' cells were retracted from Nature following an investigation into fraud and academic misconduct (reported in BioNews 761). 

The guidelines on genome editing are now open for public comment and are expected to be implemented by April next year.

Embryo genome editing research likely to get nod
The Japan News |  24 September 2018
Japan Set to Allow Gene Editing in Human Embryos
Scientific American |  3 October 2018
15 April 2019 - by Bernie Owusu-Yaw 
Monkeys with an inserted human gene involved in brain development performed better on cognitive tasks, a new study has found...
26 November 2018 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
The first births from genome-edited human embryos have been announced by a Chinese researcher amid widespread condemnation, and fears over safety...
12 November 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
A male patient in his fifties has received a stem cell injection into the brain in an early phase trial for Parkinson's disease...
15 October 2018 - by Mikey Lebrett 
Genome editing has been successfully used to treat a serious liver disease in fetal mice while still in-utero...
1 October 2018 - by Dr Helen Robertson 
A shortage of sperm donors has forced a Japanese hospital to stop offering couples a certain type of fertility treatment...
6 August 2018 - by Caroline Casey 
A first-of-its-kind clinical trial has been announced, which will use induced pluripotent stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease patients...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.