Researchers Apply For Permission To Alter DNA Of Human Embryos

The first British researchers have applied for permission to alter the DNA of human embryos to better understand the reason women have miscarriages, amid a broader debate over whether the testing is appropriate.

Earlier this year, Chinese scientists became the first in the world to modify human embryos. Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute are the first to seek permission to use the technique in Great Britain, where it is currently illegal except for research purposes.

The researchers hope to better understand the key genes involved in the first stages of fertilization and ultimately to determine the reason some women miscarry, according to The Guardian. The embryos, which are donated by couples who have a surplus after IVF treatment, would be destroyed after the research is completed. They cannot legally be studied for longer than two weeks.

But others, including some in the medical field, say that there are too many unresolved legal and ethical issues with gene editing and have called for a halt to research on human embryos until those issues can be decided. Even supporters agree the technique is so new it’s still not certain that it is safe, including to potential future generations. And it may not be possible to obtain all the information on possible risks that a subject would need to have in order to consent to the procedure.

It is our position that conducting this type of research on human embryos is highly premature,” Michael Werner, the executive director of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, said in a statement. “We’ve called for a voluntary worldwide moratorium on the genome editing of the human germline in order to give the scientific community the opportunity to come together for a robust legal and policy discussion regarding the —> Read More