‘Search and replace’ CRISPR DNA tool gaining traction despite calls for moratorium

scissors cutting letters CRISPR Shutterstock e

Momentum has been rapidly mounting around a technology called CRISP​R-Cas9, often described as a “search and replace” tool for DNA. The reason? It’s possible that scientists are now looking into using the revolutionary technique to permanently edit the genome of human eggs, sperm and embryos, a process called germline engineering.

This is the new frontier of genetic engineering, in which modifications made to reproductive cells—the germline—would be passed down to subsequent generations. Scientists aren’t sure what the effects of that might be yet.

“Every time you make a sperm or an egg cell, you’re scrambling the genomes you inherited from your mom and dad, so who the hell knows what could happen,” said David Al​bertini, who researches fertility treatments and regenerative medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “You might have effects that show up not in the first generation, but in the second, third, or fourth one.”

Scientists are advising caution as the technology advances. However, human germline engineering may be moving faster than expected. Last month, repo​rts surfaced claiming that scientists from China, the United Kingdom and at least a couple biotech companies in Boston are working on editing human germlines.

Read full original article: This New Gene-Editing Technique Is About to Be Very Controversial

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