UK scientists apply for first-ever human embryo gene editing license

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Scientists in London have asked for permission to edit the genomes of human embryos — a request that could lead to the world’s first approval of such research by a national regulatory body.

Kathy Niakan, a researcher affiliated with the Francis Crick Institute, London’s new £700-million (US$1.1-billion) biomedical-research centre, said on September 18 that she is proposing to use gene editing to provide “fundamental insights into early human development”. In a statement released through the Crick, Niakan said that her team wanted to use technology based on the CRISPR/Cas9 system — a recently developed technique for precisely editing genomes that has become hugely popular in the biology community.

In April, Nature revealed that a Chinese team had, for the first time, reported using the CRISPR/Cas9 technique to edit the genomes of human embryos. The work, led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, involved attempts to modify the gene underlying the blood disorder β-thalassaemia. The research used non-viable embryos that could not result in a live birth, but nonetheless caused huge controversy.

Robin Lovell-Badge, a developmental biologist at the Francis Crick Institute, emphasized to Nature that whereas Huang and colleague’s paper explored the correction of a genetic defect that would lead to disease, Niakan’s work proposes asking more basic questions about human-embryo development. “Kathy has no intention of making changes to the genome for clinical application,” he says.

Read full, original post: UK scientists apply for license to edit genes in human embryos

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.
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