First human gene embryo editing could stop genetic diseases

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First human gene embryo editing could stop genetic diseases

What we've found out, however, is that it's possible to use CRISPR to edit embryos without causing an error called "mosaicism", Engadget said.

For the first time ever, American scientists have successfully edited the DNA of a human embryo - in the attempt to correct genes that cause inherited diseases, a report says.

According to Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), adjustment of genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in the United States.

The topic of editing human DNA is one that has led to heated debate within the scientific, research, and medical communities for some time now.

The work by Shoukgrat Mitalipov (Oregon Health and Science University, Portland) and colleagues is believed to be ground-breaking in terms of the number of embryos modified and the safety and efficiency that was demonstrated in doing so.

According to MIT Technology Review, the experiment was just an exercise in science - the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never meant to be implanted into a womb. This gene modification process is referred to as germline engineering, since a person carrying the altered genes would pass the changes on to any offspring they had, via their own eggs or sperm (germ cells).

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. 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.

The U.S. intelligence community past year called CRISPR a potential "weapon of mass destruction".

An unnamed scientist familiar with the work told MIT Technology Review that it was "proof of principle that it can work".

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

Scientists from the country were the first to use the technique on human embryos to fix a gene that causes fatal blood disorder. But it is not clear what disease or genes were edited.

According to OHSU spokesperson Eric Robinson, the result of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal.

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