First Gene Editing In Human Embryos In The US

Toni Houston
July 28, 2017

The team didn't allow the embryos to develop for more than a couple of days, and they were never meant to be implanted into a womb.

"So far as I know, this will be the first study reported in the United States", said Jun Wu, a collaborator at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, who played a role in the project.

In December 2015, a group of global scientists and ethicists, including some from China, assembled by the US National Academy of Sciences said it would be irresponsible to use DNA editing tools to alter the genomes of human embryos, eggs, or sperm until safety, ethical and legal issues were resolved.

So far, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. CRISPR is a very precise gene-editing tool, but it can sometimes lead to editing errors.

In December 2015, scientists and ethicists at an global meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington said it would be "irresponsible" to use gene editing technology in human embryos for therapeutic purposes, such as to correct genetic diseases, until safety and efficacy issues are resolved.

OR researchers used embryos created for the experiment with sperm donated by men carrying inherited diseases. If such a genetically modified child were born, they would pass on the edited changes in their DNA to subsequent generations.


Mitalipov's team worked with human embryos produced by sperm from men with a genetic mutation, the report said, noting they were of "clinical quality". In the new work, Technology Review reported, Mitalipov and his colleagues created human embryos using sperm donated by men with the genetic mutation that they planned to try to fix with CRISPR.

Speaking to Technology Review, a scientist familiar with the project said: 'It is proof of principle that it can work.

"They significantly reduced mosaicism", explained one researcher, who chose to remain anonymous. Those regulatory barriers include a ban on using National Institutes of Health funding for experiments that use genome-editing technologies in human embryos. He created the first cloned monkeys in 2007 and in 2013 created the first human embryonic stem cells through cloning.

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

The advisory committee drew a red line at genetic enhancements-like higher intelligence. However, there are many countries without such legal restrictions.

Steve Connor is a freelance journalist based in the United Kingdom.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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