It appears that gene editing experiments for healthier babies as well as infertility prevention will be carried out by a British researcher.
Dr. Kathy Niakan of London’s Francis Crick Institute just received permission from United Kingdom regulators to conduct genome editing tests on human embryos.
Together with a team of scientists, Dr. Niakan will attempt to examine the first week of an embryo’s growth. Their aim is to better understand an individual’s development in order to find new fertility medication as well as treatments which could prevent miscarriages.
The head of the institute, Paul Nurse, mentioned the study will
“enhance our understanding of IVF (in vitro fertilization) success rates by looking at the very earliest stage of human development”.
However, women won’t receive any of the studied embryos. The team said the embryos will grow from a single cell to almost 250 cells and afterwards they will be destroyed. Currently, there exists few techniques of gene editing. However, Dr. Niakan will attempt to use a method known as CRISPR-Cas9.
This method is faster, cheaper and seems to be an approach that other researchers want to try as well. It appears CRISPR-Cas9 technique allows scientists to make a cut and paste DNA which leads to faster results. Experts also said the method is different from other gene editing processes because it has the ability to make changes in the human eggs, sperm and young embryos.
The modifications that take place would be inherited by future children. The gene editing experiment promises reliable results for women who face infertility. Moreover, it will come as a help for couples who have a family history of disease in order to be given special care and treatments for healthier babies.
The study is likely to result in disease-free embryos. This is the first time when the U.K.’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has given permission to scientists to use this gene editing method. Their approval doesn’t violate current global laws on human DNA modifications because the studied embryos will expire after seven days.
The news that United Kingdom allowed researchers to use this innovative technique has raised both worldwide interest and criticism. Religious groups seem to raise concerns about a potential slippery slope of designer babies. For the moment, scientists’ aim is to gain more information about in-vitro fertilization and treatments that could help families who want children. The U.K’s approval for editing experiments for healthier babies is a huge achievement in this field as it may give new hope for women with infertility.
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