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Aurora magazine

Scientists edit human embryos for first time

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health and Science University, modified a human embryo without errors. It is the first time that it happens and opens the door to the use of Crispr for the fight against genetic diseases. However, many are concerned about the risk of eugenic drift.

The Crispr gene-editing process makes changes to permanent and, above all, inheritable DNA. The Chinese scientists had carried out 3 experiments, but the embryonic cells had not made the changes homogeneously. There was therefore the risk of creating genetic transmissible anomalies in future generations.

The Kazakh scientist team used Crispr with the "germiline engineering" technique. In contrast to the Chinese, researchers inject Crispr at the same time as in vitro fertilization. In this way they have obtained dozens of embryos, which they have developed for a few days. They have not implanted anybody in the uterus, but the ethical problem is still present.

The United States National Academy of Sciences has stated that it supports the use of Crispr for medical purposes only. In February 2017 he therefore asked to regulate the use of the technique, so that it can only be used to deal with hereditary illnesses. For this reason, Congress has also banned embryos being modified.