United States scientists correct DNA in lab-grown human embryos

The power to change your DNAEQUINOX GRAPHICS  SCIENCE

According to Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), adjustment of genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in the United States.

The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, the report which was released Wednesday said.

Up until now, reports about human-related gene editing usually come from outside the U.S. China, in particular, hasn't been holding back when it comes to CRISPR experimentation. First reported by MIT Technology Review, the first attempt at editing the genes of human embryos in the United States has been carried out by researchers in Portland, Oregon.

The MIT journal said the experiment appeared to show it was possible to safely and effectively use gene manipulation in embryos to treat hereditary illnesses.

If the technique proves to be safe, such gene-edited embryos would develop into people who would no longer pass down their familial genetic afflictions to subsequent generations.

Some critics say germline experiments could open the floodgates to a fearless new world of "designer babies" engineered with genetic enhancements-a prospect bitterly opposed by a range of religious organizations, civil society groups, and biotech companies. "So far as I know this will be the first study reported in the USA", says Jun Wu, a collaborator at the Salk Institute, in La Jolla, California, who played a role in the project.

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Human embryos have been edited with CRISPR before, only in China. What we've found out, however, is that it's possible to use CRISPR to edit embryos without causing an error called "mosaicism", Engadget said.

A recent report on genome editing from the National Academies did not call for a moratorium on research into germline editing, arguing that it might one day be a way for some parents to have healthy, biological children, such as when both mother and father carry genetic mutations that cause severe diseases.

Mitalipov has always been pioneer in embryo research. But Mitalipov was able to "significantly" reduce mosaicism, according to MIT Technology Review. "I don't think it's the start of clinical trials yet, but it does take it further than anyone has before", a scientist familiar with the project was quoted as saying. The practice raises a lot of ethical concerns, after all, with critics being especially anxious that it could lead to designer babies. Those gene-edited embryos could never have become babies, since they contained three sets of chromosomes-a result of being double-fertilized.

By now, most of us know what CRISPR gene editing is.

The tool-considered by some a "genetic superweapon" and others as the single most important discovery of the 21st century-may be a cure for cancer, the flu, or AIDS; it could be used to wipe out all mosquitoes or create hyper-intelligent babies.

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