February 22, 2018

OHSU conducting human gene editing research

28 July 2017, 12:25 | Rex Hubbard

Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time

First Human Embryos Edited in US

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

However, the edited embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never meant to be implanted in any womb. Interestingly, Chinese researchers have found it hard to get the genetic changes in every cell of the embryos that they seek edit. The technology works as a kind of scissors that can snip selected, unwanted parts of the genome, replacing these with new DNA.

Ma Hong, a staff scientist at Mitalipov's lab, told Xinhua on Thursday that their paper is about to be published and that, for the moment, she can not reveal any information about the research.

In December 2015, scientists and ethicists at an worldwide meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington said it would be "irresponsible" to use gene editing technology in human embryos for therapeutic purposes, such as to correct genetic diseases, until safety and efficacy issues are resolved.

The embryos, which were modified to test the feasibility of fixing known disease-causing genes, were terminated days after the experiment. The only previous work like this has been reported in China.

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

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The DNA of human embryos has been edited previously by scientists in China, but this is thought to be the first time the controversial practice has been carried out in the US.

Critics say that such experiments may open the gates to a world of "designer babies" engineered with genetic enhancements - a prospect opposed by religious organisations, civil society groups, and biotech companies. Perry successfully edited the mouse gene for coat color, changing the fur of the offspring from the expected brown to white.

The National Institute of Health, however, vehemently disagrees, announcing in 2015 that it "will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos".

By editing this tag, scientists are able to target the enzyme to specific regions of DNA and make precise cuts, wherever they like. 'They significantly reduced mosaicism.

Somewhat prophetically, Perry's paper on the research, published at the end of 2014, said, "This or analogous approaches may one day enable human genome targeting or editing during very early development". It's unclear what illnesses were involved exactly, but they used sperm donated by subjects with various inheritable diseases.

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