Saturday, 16 December, 2017

Researchers Use Gene Editing on Human Embryo for First Time in US

The technology could used to give IVF embryos 'beneficial' genetic traits such as better eyesight The technology could used to give IVF embryos ‘beneficial’ genetic traits such as better eyesight
Jerome Frank | 28 July, 2017, 00:25

Technology that allows adjustment of genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in the United States, according to Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, which carried out the research.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov from Oregon Health and Science University and his team have reportedly corrected defective genes that cause inherited diseases in "a large number of one-cell embryos" using CRISPR.

"Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days - and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb - the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans", said the report in the MIT Technology Review, a magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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.

According to OHSU spokesperson Eric Robinson, the result of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal. The technology works as a kind of scissors that can snip selected, unwanted parts of the genome, replacing these with new DNA.

Scientists in China have published similar studies with mixed results.

"This is the kind of research that is essential if we are to know if it's possible to safely and precisely make corrections" in embryos' DNA to fix disease-causing genes", legal scholar and bioethicist R. Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, told STAT. Together, the problems suggested that the technique was not advanced enough to safely alter human embryos without unintended or incomplete genetic consequences.

But many are opposed to these types of experiments, including religious, civil society and biotech groups. A 2017 experiment, also in China, used CRISPR to edit DNA in normal, presumably viable fertilized eggs, or one-cell human embryos.

An unnamed scientist familiar with the work told MIT Technology Review that it was "proof of principle that it can work". CRISPR is a very precise gene-editing tool, but it can sometimes lead to editing errors.

In the United States, all efforts to turn edited embryos into a baby-to bring the embryo to full term-have been blocked by Congress, which added language to the Department of Health and Human Services funding bill that forbids it from approving any such clinical trials.

The approach has been used previously to edit the HBB gene responsible for a condition called β-thalassaemia.

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