USA scientists correct DNA in lab-grown human embryos

28 July, 2017, 00:27 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time

The feat, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov from Oregon Health & Science University, is viewed with trepidation by medical ethicists and some scientists, including those who developed the CRISPR technology.

The technique means the next generation may benefit from powerful gene therapies that can delete or fix flawed genes. Others are interested in its potential for correcting genetic diseases. The practice raises a lot of ethical concerns, after all, with critics being especially anxious that it could lead to designer babies.

Successfully altering genes in embryos could theoretically allow scientists to cures diseases, including cancer. The team's results are still pending publication, so we'll likely hear more details about the study in the future. Research into how to create designer babies should not be published. The U.S. intelligence community said previous year that the CRISPR editing technique was a potential "weapon of mass destruction". The Tech Review could not determine which disease genes researchers chose for editing. They also avoided another problem: in experiments in China, the desired DNA changes were picked up only by some cells, not all the cells of an embryo - an effect called mosaicism.

Reports from MIT were just released which assert that the very first attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon.

Human embryos have been edited with CRISPR before, only in China.

But this experiment is believed to have broken new ground in the number of embryos experimented upon.

None of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days, the report said.

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The technique, which has the ability to permanently modify genes in organisms, can selectively trim away parts of the genome that is deemed unwanted to replace it with new stretches of DNA.

Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal, according to OHSU spokesman Eric Robinson.

"It is proof of principle that it can work", an anonymous scientist familiar with the project told MIT.

But many are opposed to these types of experiments, including religious, civil society and biotech groups.

Experiments are in the works now in the US using gene-edited cells to try to treat people with various diseases, but "in order to really have a cure, you want to get this at the embryo stage", he said.

In the United States, all efforts to turn edited embryos into a baby-to bring the embryo to full term-have been blocked by Congress, which added language to the Department of Health and Human Services funding bill that forbids it from approving any such clinical trials.

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