The ability to manipulate the genome with precise spatial and nucleotide resolution (genome editing) has been a powerful research tool. In the past decade, the tools and expertise for using genome editing in human somatic cells and pluripotent cells have increased to such an extent that the approach is now being developed widely as a strategy to treat human disease. The fundamental process depends on creating a site-specific DNA double-strand break (DSB) in the genome and then allowing the cell's endogenous DSB repair machinery to fix the break such that precise nucleotide changes are made to the DNA sequence. With the development and discovery of several different nuclease platforms and increasing knowledge of the parameters affecting different genome editing outcomes, genome editing frequencies now reach therapeutic relevance for a wide variety of diseases. Moreover, there is a series of complementary approaches to assessing the safety and toxicity of any genome editing process, irrespective of the underlying nuclease used. Finally, the development of genome editing has raised the issue of whether it should be used to engineer the human germline. Although such an approach could clearly prevent the birth of people with devastating and destructive genetic diseases, questions remain about whether human society is morally responsible enough to use this tool.


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