Scientists Just Successfully Edited the First Human Embryo Ever in The US

Bryan Strickland
July 28, 2017

For the first time in the United States, scientists have edited the genes of human embryos, a controversial step toward someday helping babies avoid inherited diseases.

United States 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 U.S., a report said Thursday. First reported by MIT Technology Review, the first attempt at editing the genes of human embryos in the USA has been carried out by researchers in Portland, Oregon.

Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal, according to OHSU spokesman Eric Robinson.

CRISPR, a revolutionary gene-editing technique, has opened up enormous potential to battle diseases and genetic faults. It's like using a molecular scissors to cut and paste DNA, and is much more precise than some types of gene therapy that can not ensure that desired changes will take place exactly where and as intended.

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.

"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.

Some, like the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, believe modified human embryos should be allowed-as long as researchers follow strict criteria. A 2017 experiment, also in China, used CRISPR to edit DNA in normal, presumably viable fertilized eggs, or one-cell human embryos.

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"It is proof of principle that it can work", an anonymous scientist familiar with the project told MIT.

'I don't think it's the start of clinical trials yet, but it does take it further than anyone has before'.

The news follows a report earlier this year by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, which essentially gave a green light to researchers to use gene editing to treat or prevent inherited disease.

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

It has been used to "silence" genes - effectively switching them off.

In this way, researchers can precisely turn off specific genes in the genome.

The report also offered qualified support for the use of CRISPR for making gene-edited babies, but only if it were deployed for the elimination of serious diseases.

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