Scientists edit genes of human embryos in U.S. for first time

Scientists has been successful in edited the genes of human embryos in the United States, a controversial step toward the future of helping newborns avoid inherited disease.

The experiment was initially merely an exercise in science the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never intended to be implanted into a womb, according to MIT Technology Review, which first reported the news.

The work occurred at the Oregon Health& Science University, which corroborated the experimentation. Officials at the school said the results would be published in a publication shortly. It is thought to be the first work in the U.S .; previous experiments like this have been reported from China. How many embryos were created and edited in the experiments has not been revealed.

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The scientists reportedly employed a technique called CRISPR, which lets specific segments of DNA to be altered or replaced. With gene editing, these so-called germline changes are permanent and would be passed down to any offspring.

The research holds great potential to avoid many genetic diseases, but has raised anxieties of decorator babies if done for less lofty reasons, such as rendering desirable traits.

Last year, Britain said some of its scientists could edit embryo genes to better understand human developing.

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Science and National Academy of Medicine in the U.S. said in a report that altering the genes of embryos might be fine if done under strict criteria aimed at preventing serious disease.

“This is the kind of research that the report discussed, ” University of Wisconsin-Madison bioethicist R. Alta Charo said of research reports of Oregon’s work. She co-led the National Academies panel but was not commenting on its behalf Thursday.

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“This was purely laboratory-based run that is incredibly valuable for helping us understand how one might build these germline changes in a way that is precise and safe. But it’s merely a first step, ” she said.

“We still have regulatory roadblocks in the United States to ever trying this to achieve a pregnancy. The populace has plenty of time” to weigh in on whether that should pass, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report .

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