Scientists create first genetically modified human embryo

April 23, 2015 12:36 AM

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Scientists create first genetically modified human embryo

For the first time in history, a team of researchers have successfully edited the genes of a human embryo. The researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou reportedly used the CRISPR/Cas9 technique to knock a gene called HBB, which causes the fatal blood disorder β-thalassaemia, out of donor embryos. This marks the first time that the CRISPR technique has been employed on an embryonic human genome. The CRISPR/Cas9 method utilizes a complex enzyme (aka a set of "genetic scissors") to snip out and replace faulty gene segments with functional bits of DNA. The technique is well-studied in adult cells, but very little published research has been done using embryonics. And it's the latter application that has bioethicists up in arms.

On one hand, advocates for genetic modification argue that it could lead to medical techniques that eliminate devastating genetic disorders like Parkinson's, Down syndrome or Sickle-Cell Anemia before a person is even born. On the other hand, critics warn that tinkering with the blueprints of life t...

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