Gene editing carries risks so low that it can be used in human embryos, according to an analysis by Kevin Smith, a bioethicist at Abertay University in Scotland, published last week in the journal Bioethics.
Proponents like Smith want to change the genetic makeup of embryos to prevent transmission of gene-related diseases.
However, the practice is extremely controversial due to fear that it could be used to create "designer babies" whose genes have been edited for non-therapeutic purposes.
But Smith says their creation is ethically justifiable and would give hope to parents at risk of transmitting serious genetic disease to their offspring, according to a statement.
From a "utilitarian point of view", genetic modification is the "only conceivable way" to deal with multiple diseases genes in an embryo, according to Smith.
Genetic modification would allow doctors to protect future people from cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia, as well as other common diseases, Smith said.
"If several common disorders could be avoided or delayed by genetically modified humans, providing disease-free longevity could be significantly extended," he said in a press release.
Smith recommends delaying genetic modification programs because right now "society is strongly opposed to genetically modified humans."
He still believes an ethical attempt to produce genetically modified infants may be less than two years away.
His work has been criticized by other experts in the field who still point out the risks of gene editing studied.
"I don't think there are adequate experiments that will" prove "that this technology is safe," said Joyce Harper of the University College London (UCL) Institute for Women's Health Science Media Center ( SMC) in London. "So we have to tread carefully."
Harper emphasizes that through-editing has tremendous potential, but wants "public debate and legislation to ensure that we have thought this through carefully."
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Education Trust (PET), an organization working to improve public understanding of genetics, called Smith's analysis "erroneous."
Norcross points out that the public may not change their opinion about genetically modified children, and more work needs to be done in Norcross telling SMC's understanding of the risks of technology.
"Lessons should be learned from mistakes made last year.
" If this technology will be used for similar uses in the future, much higher scientific and ethical standards must be met. "