Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time

Posted July 28, 2017

In December 2015, a group of worldwide scientists and ethicists, including some from China, assembled by the US National Academy of Sciences said it would be irresponsible to use DNA editing tools to alter the genomes of human embryos, eggs, or sperm until safety, ethical and legal issues were resolved.

The OHSU research showed that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes which cause some inherited diseases, according to Technology Review.

The team of researchers, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, created the embryos using sperm donated by men with inherited mutations that cause a disease.

Currently, any effort to turn an edited human embryo into a baby in the United States is banned by Congress.

"The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed nearly universally as a line that should not be crossed", Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health said in April 2015.

Critics say these type of experiments could create genetically engineered "designer babies" who would be inherently better than conventional human children.

A team of scientists from OR have performed the first known instance of gene editing on human embryos in the U.S., Engadget reports citing MIT's Tech Review.

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Mitalipov's group appears to have overcome earlier difficulties by "getting in early" and injecting CRISPR into the eggs at the same time they were fertilised with sperm.

The US intelligence community a year ago labelled CRISPR a potential 'weapon of mass destruction'.

Mitalipov's results are still "pending publication", he told MIT.

Speaking to Technology Review, a scientist familiar with the project said: 'It is proof of principle that it can work.

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

Scientists from the country were the first to use the technique on human embryos to fix a gene that causes fatal blood disorder. Along with the National Academy of Medicine, the academy stated that scientific advances make gene editing in human reproductive cells "a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration".