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Attitudes of clinical geneticists and certified genetic counselors to genome editing and its clinical applications: A nation-wide questionnaire survey in Japan

Abstract

Genome editing of the human embryo using CRISPR/Cas9 has the potential to prevent hereditary diseases from being transmitted to the next generation. However, attitudes to this technology have not been examined sufficiently among the genetic professionals who will use it in the near future. We conducted a questionnaire survey of Japanese clinical geneticists and certified genetic counselors. Differences were observed between them in their recognition of this technology and impressions on its difficulty and cost. Both groups worried about misuse of it, with insufficient information and rules. As key elements for such rules, they considered ethics, safety, and purpose. Most disapproved of modifying physical traits as an enhancement, though they hoped for the treatment of severe diseases. At current clinical sites, they tended to adopt a prudent attitude by mentioning only the possibility of genome editing in the future. Academic policies and legislation are required, especially for application in human embryos, through a consensus of professionals and general citizens. Furthermore, professionals should maintain awareness of new developments and regularly reexamine attitudes for the ongoing development of more suitable rules, education systems, and clinical protocols. As preparation for changes, opportunities to address ethical issues and initiate discussions are also required.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all of those who have assisted in the questionnaire survey and have received the guidance and support of clinical geneticists and certified genetic counselors. In addition, the authors wish to acknowledge Dr. Kazuya Setoh, Center for Genomic Medicine, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan, for help in the statistical analysis of this study.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Correspondence to Takahiro Yamada.

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