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Could CRISPR’s simplicity make it difficult to regulate human embryonic gene editing?

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

A group of researchers shocked the world in April when they revealed that they had used a revolutionary gene editing tool discovered in 2012 called CRISPR to edit the DNA of human embryos.

They used a tool that’s so simple, a person with molecular biology skills and know-how could probably do it in a bio-hacker space for less than $2,000, according to experts.

And in fact, CRISPR — which can be used to modify genes in any cell — is so powerful and easy to use that some scientists think experimentation on human embryos was inevitable.

“As anticipated, because this sort of study is technically possible, it was going to be done,” Matthew Porteus, an associate professor of pediatrics in the division of stem cell transplantation told the Genetic Expert News Service.

The embryos used by the researchers were never going to develop into a person, but scientists are concerned about the future implications and effects of haphazard experimentation with human embryos. After all, it doesn’t require a massive, highly-regulated research university to use this powerful tool.

The hardest part of doing CRISPR on human embryos (instead of other cells) would be getting the embryos themselves — that would require donated embryos or the resources of a fertility clinic, including a minor surgery for egg extraction.

Actually implanting and developing an embryo from there (something still in the future, since accurate embryo modification is still not possible) would be even more expensive — a typical IVF procedure costs $12,000. But the genetic modification component itself? Easy and cheap.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: The process used to edit the genes of human embryos is so easy you could do it in a community bio-hacker space

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