Human embryo edited for first time in U.S., pushes limits ars_ab.settitle(1138745)

  • Human embryo edited for first time in U.S., pushes limits ars_ab.settitle(1138745)

Human embryo edited for first time in U.S., pushes limits ars_ab.settitle(1138745)

A video shows the injection of gene-editing chemicals into a human egg near the moment of fertilization. Others are interested in its potential for correcting genetic diseases.

In the U.S., Congress blocked clinical trials that involve genetically modifying human embryos.

Until now, the only three published reports of human embryo gene editing were from researchers in China.

Scientists like Mitalipov believe they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease and even cancer by altering the DNA of human embryos. None of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than few days and were never intended for implantation.

Scientists from the country were the first to use the technique on human embryos to fix a gene that causes fatal blood disorder. As a result, any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells-the egg and sperm.

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.

Last year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report that added genome editing to a list of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation, saying it "increases the risk of the creation of potentially harmful biological agents or products".

A controversial technique that lets scientists "edit" genes in a human embryo has been successfully used for the first time in the US.

Mitalipov's results are still "pending publication", he told MIT. First reported by MIT Technology Review, the first attempt at editing the genes of human embryos in the U.S. has been carried out by researchers in Portland, Oregon. But they only managed to make their desired DNA changes on a small number of cells, creating an effect known as "mosaicism". That effect, called mosaicism, lent weight to arguments that germline editing would be an unsafe way to create a person. The National Academy of Sciences issued a report in early 2017 endorsing human germline modification, though, and that's exactly what Mitalipov's group did.

Now a team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University is about to publish details of a bigger study based on editing "many tens" of embryos. Embryos at this stages are tiny clumps of cells invisible to the naked eye.

"It is proof of principle that it can work".