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Controversial CRISPR-edited sperm experiment seeks to reduce risk for breast, ovarian, prostate cancers

| | August 27, 2019
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Wang and Alessandra Parrella, a Weill Cornell staff associate, are part of the team trying to use CRISPR to edit DNA in human sperm. They work at the Andrology Lab at the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Image: Elias Williams/NPR
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Reproductive biologists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City are attempting to use the powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR to alter genes in human sperm. NPR got exclusive access to watch the controversial experiments underway.

The research is aimed at finding new ways to prevent disorders caused by genetic mutations that are passed down from men — including some forms of male infertility. The team is starting with a gene that can increase the risk for breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers.

The experiments are just starting and have not yet been successful. But the research raises many of the same hopes — and fears — as editing the DNA of human embryos. Nevertheless, the researchers defend the work.

“I think it’s important from the scientific point of view to investigate in an ethical manner to be able to learn if it’s possible,” says Gianpiero Palermo, a professor of embryology in obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, who runs the lab where the work is being conducted.

“If we can wipe out a particular gene, it would be incredible,” Palermo says. “Theoretically, in principal, this would be a major, major benefit to society.”

Read full, original post: Scientists Attempt Controversial Experiment To Edit DNA In Human Sperm Using CRISPR

Related article:  'Safe Genes' and the search for a CRISPR undo button
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