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Genetics experience impacts attitudes towards germline gene editing: a survey of over 1500 members of the public


CRISPR-Cas9 has revolutionised genome engineering and has the potential to radically change our approach to genetic disease. However, the potential for genetic modification of embryos has raised significant and complex ethical and social concerns. The scientific community have called for ongoing stakeholder consultation about Germline Gene Editing (GGE), in particular lay publics, to help guide policy, education, research and regulatory priorities. In response, we conducted a survey to gauge public support for GGE and describe the demographic, experiential and contextual factors that influence individual attitudes. Respondent support was measured across nine hypothetical medical and enhancement GGE applications. We received responses from 1537 participants across 67 countries. Respondents were generally supportive of GGE, particularly for medical applications. While the most opposition observed was among religious respondents, those with work experience in genetics or genomics also reported greater resistance to GGE. Personal or family-related experience with genetics or genomics, identifying as female and tertiary education were also associated with less support for GGE. Further research needs to explore a diverse range of community and group attitudes towards GGE; the reasons underlying demographic and experiential differences; and to determine where the public and genetics professionals draw the line on ethical implementation respectively.

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Danya Vears and Christopher Gyngell acknowledge the infrastructure funding received from the Victorian State Government through the Operational Infrastructure Support (OIS) Programme, via the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. Abbie Jedwab wishes to extend special thanks to Rayne Constantine for her assistance with online recruitment and Dr Sharon Lewis for helpful comments on earlier drafts. 

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Correspondence to Christopher Gyngell.

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Jedwab, A., Vears, D.F., Tse, C. et al. Genetics experience impacts attitudes towards germline gene editing: a survey of over 1500 members of the public. J Hum Genet 65, 1055–1065 (2020).

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