Monday, 23 October, 2017

First human embryos genetically modified in US

Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time Scientists take giant step towards designer babies
Carol Daniels | 28 July, 2017, 00:25

For the first time, scientists in the USA have successfully edited the DNA of viable human embryos using the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR, according to a report by MIT Technology Review.

The research done at Oregon Health and Science University did not allow the human embryos to develop for more than a few days.

The scientists reportedly used a technique called CRISPR, which allows sections of DNA to be altered or replaced.

To date, just three teams - all in China - have published results in scientific journals. With gene editing, these so-called "germline" changes are permanent and would be passed down to any offspring.

Scientists like Mitalipov believe they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease and even cancer by altering the DNA of human embryos.

The trouble with mosaicism is that there is no sure way to detect it before implanting an embryo into the uterus.

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Basically, a genetic scalpel, CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat) allows users to slice parts of DNA in living cells to remove existing genes or add new ones.

"But Mitalipov and his team are said to have convincingly shown that it is possible to avoid both mosaicism and "off-target" effects, as the "CRISPR" errors are known", the report noted. Technology Review could not determine which disease genes had been chosen for editing.

However, the work was later reviewed by researchers at another institution and the findings were brought into question. In February, however, a committee created by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine endorsed the use of genetic engineering on human embryos when there isn't a "reasonable alternative" available, and only to eliminate serious diseases.

'I don't think it's the start of clinical trials yet, but it does take it further than anyone has before'.

A scientist who is familiar with the project but chose to remain anonymous said: "It is proof of principle that it can work". In the United States, this kind of research is much more controversial: there's even a ban on using National Institutes of Health funding for research using gene-editing technologies in human embryos. Then, in 2013, he created human embryos through cloning, as a way of creating patient-specific stem cells. It's unclear what illnesses were involved exactly, but they used sperm donated by subjects with various inheritable diseases. Many are drooling to engage in eugenic genetic enhancements.

Currently, any effort to turn an edited human embryo into a baby in the United States is banned by Congress. However, there are many countries without such legal restrictions.

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