Oregon Scientists First in United States to Edit Human Embryos

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Reports from MIT were just released which assert that the very first attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon.

USA 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 USA, a report said Thursday. In the current experiment, the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days, the report said.

Some countries have signed a convention prohibiting the practice on concerns it could be used to create so-called designer babies.

According to OHSU spokesperson Eric Robinson, the result of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal. Interestingly, Chinese researchers have found it hard to get the genetic changes in every cell of the embryos that they seek edit. It involves using molecular "scissors" to remove undesirable elements of gene sequencing and replace them with new DNA elements.

Worldwide experts in the emerging field of gene therapy said it would be hard to assess the results until the OR team fully published its findings.

The goal is to be able to correct defective genes that would cause inherited diseases.

Technology that allows adjustment of genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in the United States. Gaining the ability to edit human DNA is the first step toward one day allowing scientists to prevent babies from being born with incurable diseases or disabilities.

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Some critics say germline experiments could open the floodgates to a courageous 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.

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".

However, the work was later reviewed by researchers at another institution and the findings were brought into question.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool for making precise edits in DNA, discovered in bacteria.

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

Don't expect a new generation of gene-edited people in the U.S., though: Any local efforts to turn edited IVF embryos into babies have, so far, been blocked by Congress.

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