Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

First editing of human embryos carried out in United States

Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time Scientists take giant step towards designer babies
Arthur Frazier | 28 July, 2017, 00:27

While scientists in China have used the same technology to genetically modify human embryos, this is believed to be the first attempt in the U.S. In the current experiment, the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days, the report said.

Earlier this year, a team of Chinese researchers at Guangzhou Medical University succeeded at using CRISPR to edit the genes of some normal human embryos. It's like using a molecular scissors to cut and paste DNA, and is much more precise than some types of gene therapy that can not ensure that desired changes will take place exactly where and as intended.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool for making precise edits in DNA, discovered in bacteria.

In theory, the technique could also be used to create "designer" babies with specific desirable qualities, such as eye color or strength, and possibly even greater intelligence, a prospect that has sparked a lively ethical debate in the scientific community and beyond.

Technology that allows adjustment of genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in the United States.

Mitalipov's team worked with human embryos produced by sperm from men with a genetic mutation, the report said, noting they were of "clinical quality".

Thunderstorms to arrive later today in Flagstaff region
Partly sunny skies through the rest of the afternoon as high temperatures reach the low 90s with humidity. A chance for rain does return to the forecast Sunday , with a 20 percent chance throughout the day.

"It is proof of principle that it can work", an anonymous scientist familiar with the project told MIT. That makes gene-editing unsafe. "But it's only a first step", she said. If such a genetically modified child were born, they would pass on the edited changes in their DNA to subsequent generations.

Mitalipov declined to comment on the results which, he said, are pending publication.In the process termed "germline engineering", the scientists demonstrated that it is possible to safely and efficiently eradicate or correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases like the blood condition beta-thalassemia.

Some countries have already signed a convention prohibiting the practice - and religious groups have voiced their concern. The research, however, was limited to the lab and the embryos were not meant to be implanted into the womb.

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.

Hank Greely, director of Stanford University's Center for Law and the Biosciences, called CRISPR "the most exciting thing I've seen in biology in the 25 years I've been watching it", with tremendous possibilities to aid human health. Or are we going to engage democratic deliberation to determine if this should be done, and if so, what the parameters are?

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