Human gene therapies are accepted by 2/3 of people worldwide

A worlwide study involving 3,988 respondents has shown that most people accept gene therapies to cure or prevent diseases. However, gene editing is not positively percepted for any non-disease alterations of human genome.

Text surveys were completed by participants from 185 countries. Automatic analysis linked topic, perception and demographic parameters.

As the researchers note:

Whilst there is firm agreement with the use of human gene editing for health-related purposes, at approximately 60%, this support is far from universal.

On the basis of 10 personal questions, it was possible to determine factors influencing disagreement with human gene editing. Unexpectedly religious beliefs or familiarity with evolution did not correlate with this group. Instead, the most prevalent cause of disagreement was a need for better understanding of methods and the science behind them. The finding emphasises essential role of science communication in modern world.

Responses generally did not differ between somatic and embryonic methods, which points to lack of engagement of the public in this topic, despite call from Nature:

Key to all discussion and future research is making a clear distinction between genome editing in somatic cells and in germ cells.

In contrast to health-related human gene editing, alteration of non-disease charasteristics (“such as memory, eye color or height”) is not accepted by most people.

More: “A Need for Better Understanding Is the Major Determinant for Public Perceptions of Human Gene Editing”, T. McCaughey et al., 2018, doi:10.1089/hum.2018.033.