First human gene embryo editing could stop genetic diseases

First human gene embryo editing could stop genetic diseases

Process changed DNA of large number of one-cell embryos with the controversial gene-editing technique CRISPR.

The study has 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.

A researcher at Oregon Health and Science University has reportedly become the first in the United States to genetically modify a human embryo, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review.

To date, just three teams - all in China - have published results in scientific journals.

According to MIT Technology Review, the experiment was just an exercise in science - the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never meant to be implanted into a womb.

The genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations.

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But this practice, many critics warn, could open the doors to a Brave New World-like scenario of "designer babies", engineered to produce the most desirable traits.

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. In a report this year, National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine said scientific advances made gene editing in human reproductive cells "a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration". However, Mitalipov said his team was able to avoid mosaicism by injecting CRISPR into the eggs at the same time they were fertilized with sperm.

According to a person familiar with the research, "many tens" of human IVF embryos were created for the experiment using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations.

A scientist who is familiar with the project but chose to remain anonymous said: "It is proof of principle that it can work". They significantly reduced mosaicism.

"It's very hard to be able to comment on any specifics or the robustness of the science because there is no scientific paper", said Simon Waddington, Reader in Gene Transfer Technology at University College London.

Don't expect a new generation of gene-edited people in the U.S., though: Any local efforts to turn edited IVF embryos into babies have, so far, been blocked by Congress.

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