DNA of human embryos edited for 1st time in US

Barsaba Taglieri
Luglio 27, 2017

A courageous new world of genetically-modified "designer" babies has come a step closer with the first in-depth study showing that it is technically possible to alter the genes of human IVF embryos safely.

The report also offered qualified support for the use of CRISPR for making gene-edited babies, but only if it were deployed for the elimination of serious diseases.

"So far as I know this will be the first study [on editing human IVF embryos] reported in the United States", said Jun Wu, a researcher at the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California, who is understood to be one of the many authors named on the paper.

"Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases".

The last study, published in June, involved just six normal IVF embryos created for research purposes with sperm from men carrying inherited disease genes.

Although the report said that "many tens" of embryos were created in the experiment, they were never meant to be implanted into a womb and were only allowed to develop for a few days.

Mitalipov's team has reportedly made progress in tackling the biggest safety issue in editing embryos: mosaicism.

Up until now, China was the only known country to carry out the practice.

A video shows the injection of gene-editing chemicals into a human egg near the moment of fertilization.

The technique was previously tested by Tony Perry, who was able to successfully edit the genes in mice to change the expected fur color of their offspring.

They said although basic and preclinical research should be allowed, edited human embryos should not be used to establish a pregnancy. They significantly reduced mosaicism. Although Crispr seemed to work in correcting the disease mutation in one or two embryos, few scientists were convinced that the study showed Crispr would ever be safe enough to use in a clinical trial. But Mitalipov's research, if it passes peer review, would be a significant step for American scientists.

In December 2015, scientists and ethicists at an global meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington said it would be "irresponsible" to use gene editing technology in human embryos for therapeutic purposes, such as to correct genetic diseases, until safety and efficacy issues are resolved.

Another scientific first " I've heard Mitalipov has done it. Many critics are anxious that the practice could lead to "designer babies" that are engineered with genetic enhancements.

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