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Public attitudes in the clinical application of genome editing on human embryos in Japan: a cross-sectional survey across multiple stakeholders

Abstract

Recent advances in genome editing technology are accompanied by increasing public expectations on its potential clinical application, but there are still scientific, ethical, and social considerations that require resolution. In Japan, discussions pertaining to the clinical use of genome editing in human embryos are underway. However, understanding of the public’s sentiment and attitude towards this technology is limited which is important to help guide the debate for prioritizing policies and regulatory necessities. Thus, we conducted a cross-sectional study and administered an online questionnaire across three stakeholder groups: the general public, patients and their families, and health care providers. We received responses from a total of 3,511 individuals, and the attitudes were summarized and compared among the stakeholders. Based on the distribution of responses, health care providers tended to be cautious and reluctant about the clinical use of genome editing, while patients and families appeared supportive and positive. The majority of the participants were against the use of genome editing for enhancement purposes. Participants expressed the view that clinical use may be acceptable when genome editing is the fundamental treatment, the risks are negligible, and the safety of the technology is demonstrated in human embryos. Our findings suggest differences in attitudes toward the clinical use of genome editing across stakeholder groups. Taking into account the diversity of the public’s awareness and incorporating the opinion of the population is important. Further information dissemination and educational efforts are needed to support the formation of the public’s opinion.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a grant from the Health Labor Sciences Research Grant (20CA2005). We thank the Japan Patients Association, Approved Specified Nonprofit Corporation the Support Network for NANBYO Children of Japan, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Japan Pediatric Society, the Japan Society of Perinatal and Neonatal Medicine and the Japan Society of Human Genetics. We are grateful to our study support staff and, most importantly, survey participants for their contribution to this study.

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Correspondence to Kenji Takehara.

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Kobayashi, S., Miyoshi, T., Kobayashi, T. et al. Public attitudes in the clinical application of genome editing on human embryos in Japan: a cross-sectional survey across multiple stakeholders. J Hum Genet 67, 541–546 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s10038-022-01042-z

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