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Aurora magazine

Beta-thalassemia removed from human embryo with gene editing

Chinese researchers have cured a human embryo with Mediterranean anemia. Thanks to a CRISPR daughter genetic editing technique, they corrected DNA and eliminated genetic abnormality. In the future, the technique could allow many illnesses to be corrected. For the time being, however, embryos have not been implanted and it will take time before the technique is applied.

Professor David Liu is one of the pioneers of CRISPR and the lead author of the study. Thanks to the tissues of a patient suffering from Mediterranean anemia, the researchers got sick embryos. They then used genetic screening to detect the mutation cause of the disease. Once found, they have corrected the genetic base and thus eliminated the disease. Healed embryos have not been implanted.

The Chinese turn involves a number of controversial ethical implications. It is wondering why the researchers did not test more on animal models before going to human embryos. It is also undeniable that European and US standards would never allow such action. Not in these ways and in these times, at least.

Many experts fear a drift of eugenics, which could be used to draw the perfect human being. Beyond that, modifying embryo DNA could cause unforeseen and inherent abnormalities. Although the technique used is safer than normal CRISPR, the risk is still present.