Gene Editing Approved For UK Scientists

March 17 2016 1:00pm

DNA strand

DNA strand

The UK is the first country to gain approval for a DNA altering technique in human embryos.  Approval was granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), an independent regulator overseeing human embryo research.

Dr Kathy Niakan will lead this work. When asked why she requested permission to edit the embryos, she stated, “We would really like to understand the genes needed for a human embryo to develop successfully into a healthy baby. The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they’re not very well understood.”

The Relationship between Genetic Editing and IVF Treatments

This type of genetic editing will offer hope for further understanding the blastocyst stage, in which cells are instructed to perform specific roles. At Concept Fertility, we are experts on blastocysts, a time in which our DNA is extremely active.

The current research aims to better understand how a healthy human embryo develops. This knowledge will give doctors and scientists an even stronger comprehension of how to improve IVF success rates. The embryos being modified have been donated, and will be destroyed after one week.

This is a sensitive issue for critics who have social and ethical concerns about human genetics experiments. Some believe it will lead to a culture of ‘consumer eugenics’. The HFEA needed to consider carefully these concerns prior to granting permission for the proposed research. There are also restrictions on the approval. For example, it is still illegal to implant a modified embryo into a woman.

Though we understand that genes lead early development, there is still significant mystery surrounding what leads to miscarriage. Doctors believe that a better understanding of the relationship between genetics and miscarriage will help to improve the chances of successful pregnancy. The experiment is due to begin in the next couple of months.


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