First Gene Editing In Human Embryos In The US

CRISPR works as a type of molecular scissors that can selectively trim away unwanted parts of the genome and replace it with new stretches of DNA

Because changing the DNA of an early embryo results in changes to cells that will eventually produce sperm and eggs, if the embryo is born and grows to adulthood, any children he or she has will inherit the genetic adjustment, which is called germline editing.

In a step that some of the nation's leading scientists have long warned against and that has never before been accomplished, biologists in OR have edited the DNA of viable human embryos efficiently and apparently with few mistakes, according to a report in Technology Review.

The report, published Wedesday, says OHSU researcher Shoukhrat Mitalipov successfully used the gene editing technology CRISPR to alter human DNA in single-cell embryos. The scientists had no plans to actually allow them to develop, but the work is a significant step forward for those who support continued development of CRISPR and the eventual implementation of the technique to correct flaws in embryos carried to full term.

However, the edited embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never meant to be implanted in any womb.

The study has broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon, and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases. As a result, any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells-the egg and sperm.

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. In previous attempts by Chinese scientists, CRISPR caused an editing error wherein the DNA changes they made were only taken up by some, not all, of the cells the embryos developed.

Mitalipov has always been pioneer in embryo research.

Regardless, the research shows just how far gene editing has come - and makes the prospect of engineered, disease-free humans more science fact than science fiction.

But in February, a report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Medicine said that clinical trials for gene editing of human reproductive cells "could be permitted in the future, but only for serious conditions under stringent oversight".

There are many concerns around genetically engineering humans. But Mitalipov was able to "significantly" reduce mosaicism, according to MIT Technology Review.

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

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