USA scientists correct DNA in lab-grown human embryos

The power to change your DNAEQUINOX GRAPHICS  SCIENCE

According to the Technology Review, past efforts by us scientists to use CRISPR have been inconsistent and resulted in "editing errors" that gave weight to arguments the technique "would be an unsafe way to create a person". The objective is to eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, but many worry that this may lead to "designer" babies with genetic enhancements.

The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University in the USA, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the controversial gene-editing technique CRISPR.

Scientists in China have attempted the same experiments on human embryos, to mixed results.

Last year, Britain said some of its scientists could edit embryo genes to better understand human development.

The experiment was just an exercise in science - the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never meant to be implanted into a womb, according to MIT Technology Review, which first reported the news.

The embryos, which were modified to test the feasibility of fixing known disease-causing genes, were terminated days after the experiment.

U.S. researchers have successfully carried out gene editing on human embryos using the revolutionary technique known as CRISPR, the first time the procedure has been performed in the United States, a report said on Thursday (July 27).

The Oregon group managed to avoid that problem by injecting CRISPR segments - DNA segments used to cut out unwanted genes - and sperm cells into the eggs at the same time. In a report this year, National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine said scientific advances made gene editing in human reproductive cells "a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration".

Reached by Skype, Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which he said are pending publication.

Experiments are in the works now in the US using gene-edited cells to try to treat people with various diseases, but "in order to really have a cure, you want to get this at the embryo stage", he said.

"They significantly reduced mosaicism", explained one researcher, who chose to remain anonymous.

This is not the first time in the world this gene-editing technique has been used. "Unfortunately, we can provide no further information about the work", Eric Robinson, a spokesman for the OHSU, told the review.

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