US Scientists Managed to Genetically Alter Human Embryos For the First Time

Human embryo inside the womb

A team of Oregon scientists was the first in the US to genetically modify human embryos

A team of US researchers managed to carry out a process of genetic altering of a human embryo. The process could be completed with the help of CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technique, and affected the DNA of a few embryos made up of only one cell.

First successful embryo gene editing process in the US

Other scientists also tried to edit genes in human embryos before, but only in other countries. There are three instances of DNA modification, and all of them took place in China. However, the latest US experiment, performed by researchers from Oregon Health and Science University, is different.

Researchers find this experiment revolutionary, as they modified a higher number of embryos. Also, the motivation behind gene editing was different this time. They wanted to genetically alter embryos and remove those genes which lead to the development of congenital diseases.

The attempt comes with moral issues

Such attempts have been subjects to great controversy. The scientist who led this project, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, was the first who cloned human embryonic stem cells. When the US became too restrictive for his experiments, he even went to China to undertake them.

However, Mitalipov and his team claim they never intended to place these embryos in a womb. Also, they didn’t allow them to develop for more than a few days. They only wanted to see how far they can go with genetic editing of human cells, and show how they can work with disease-producing genes. However, once such a technology is perfected, it might be used for other purposes as well.

This is the first attempt at embryo gene editing which was successful. Previously, the process couldn’t go on until the end, as not all cells in the embryos fully embraced the genetic modification. Now, researchers managed to find a way to avoid this.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons