London - Scientists have warned against allowing babies to be born with edited genes.
It comes after a world first technique was unveiled to "fix" an embryo’s faulty DNA, which could eventually eradicate genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and breast cancer.
Amid debate the breakthrough could pave the way for designer babies, international experts put out a statement concluding it would be "inappropriate" for a woman to become pregnant with a genetically altered embryo.
They raise public concerns that editing an embryo to fix a genetic disease could be seen as "playing God" in an effort to create only the "best children" possible.
It could also damage the "unconditional" love parents have for their children by making them aware of genetic "imperfections".
The statement, led by Stanford University in the US and endorsed by eight organisations including the UK’s Wellcome Genome Campus, took 17 months to produce. It concludes: "At this time, given the nature and number of unanswered scientific, ethical, and policy questions, it is inappropriate to perform germline gene editing that culminates in human pregnancy."
The expert opinion follows controversy over the ethics of the first successful attempt, led by scientists from Oregon Health and Science University, to use gene editing to cut out DNA from a fertilised egg. This prevented a gene causing a deadly heart condition being passed on.
But the scientists’ statement, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, discusses public fears of eugenics being used to create a superior race.
It warned: "The ability to 'easily' request interventions intended to reduce medical risks and costs could make parents less tolerant of perceived imperfections.
"Perhaps the most deeply felt uneasiness is conceptual: the sense that in identifying some individuals and their traits as 'unfit', we experience a collective loss of our humanity. Often articulated as a concern is that we might be 'overstepping' and 'playing God'."