Published: Fri, July 28, 2017
Health Care | By Jan Bell

First ever genetically modified human embryos created in US

First ever genetically modified human embryos created in US

A team of researchers in OR have become the first to attempt to create genetically modified human embryos in the United States.

A controversial technology which allows scientists to "edit" the genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in America, according to Oregon Health and Science University.

The report said the three previous instances of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.

Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop beyond a few days, this breakthrough has meant scientists are now one step closer to achieving the birth of genetically modified human beings.

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Shoukhrat Mitalipov, head of OHSU's Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy and lead author on the research, explains that their study made use of the innovative technology CRISPR.

But in February, a report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Medicine said that clinical trials for gene editing of human reproductive cells "could be permitted in the future, but only for serious conditions under stringent oversight". But other scientists confirmed the editing of embryos using CRISPR.

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, MIT Technology Review has learned.

That effect, called "mosaicism", lent weight to arguments that "germline editing" would be an unsafe way to create a person.

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But Mitalipov and his colleagues are said to have convincingly shown that it is possible to avoid both mosaicism and "off-target" effects, as the CRISPR errors are known.

"The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed nearly universally as a line that should not be crossed", Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health said in April 2015. Embryos at this stages are tiny clumps of cells invisible to the naked eye.

CRISPR, a revolutionary gene-editing technique, has opened up enormous potential to battle diseases and genetic faults. "Unfortunately, we can provide no further information about the work", Eric Robinson, a spokesman for the OHSU, told the review.

"They significantly reduced mosaicism", explained one researcher, who chose to remain anonymous.

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