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Scientists successfully genetically modify human embryos, allowing for editing of babies’ genes

by Published on 23rd Apr 2015

by Published on 23rd April 2015

A report published on the 18th of April has shone new light into the possibility of altering the human genome. Chinese researchers used gene editing to modify human embryos, attempting to correct the gene defect that is responsible for beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder.

Genes of more than 80 embryos were edited using a technology called CRISPR-Cas9. While in some cases they were successful, in others the CRISPR technology didn’t work or introduced unexpected mutations. Some of the embryos ended up being mosaics, with a repaired gene in some cells, but not in others. The embryos were taken from an IVF clinic in China, but were non-viable, as “ethical reasons precluded studies of gene editing in normal embryos”.

Germline engineering could one day be used to remove disease genes from the gene pool, however the practise of modifying the human genome raises many ethical concerns. Critics fear that this editing could wreak havoc on the human gene pool, as the alterations will be coded into the heritage line and passed down through all future generations. Additionally, there is the fear that gene editing will be used as a science-enabled form of eugenics with parents being able to choose the most desirable traits, including trivial changes like hair and eye colour, to create a designer baby.

Read more at: MIT Technology Review