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Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time

28 July 2017

Successfully altering genes in embryos could theoretically allow scientists to cures diseases, including cancer.

The research - which has yet to be published - was led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University.

In a first in the U.S., scientists using the "CRISPR" genome-editing technique, have successfully corrected the DNA in human embryos that carried inherited diseases.

For now, federal regulations have banned allowing a genetically-modified human embryo to develop into a baby. Without implantation, embryos can not develop into babies.

To date, just three teams - all in China - have published results in scientific journals.

Earlier this year however, NAS and the National Academy of Medicine said scientific advances make gene editing in human reproductive cells 'a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration'. Many are drooling to engage in eugenic genetic enhancements.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool for making precise edits in DNA, discovered in bacteria. That has led to fears that such manipulations could alter the course of human evolution. "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.

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But many are opposed to these types of experiments over concerns it could be used to create "designer babies".

And in December 2015 Scientists and ethicists held and an worldwide meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington. "I don't think it's the start of clinical trials yet, but it does take it further than anyone has before", a scientist familiar with the project was quoted as saying.

Engineered humans are still far away into the future.

"But Mitalipov and his team 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 report noted. One day, CRISPR could allow us to delete genes in order to eradicate genetic diseases, add in new genes in order to vastly improve various biological functions, or even genetically modify human embryos in order to create an entirely new class of humans...of super humans.

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

Some in the field questioned just how groundbreaking the research is. Stanford University law professor and bioethicist Hank Greely tweeted that "the key point" is that no one has tried to implant any edited embryos.

Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time