UK researchers seek GMO babies

Researchers from the United Kingdom believe the next frontier of science will be directly genetically modifying human embryos in the name of “studying early human development.”

While the request is still pending, it is certainly a hot-button issue. If the request is granted, it will be the first time a national body will grant such a request.

The person of the hour is one Kathy Niakan, who is based at the new Francis Crick Institute – a billion-dollar research facility. Her project would use one of the most popular ways to edit genomes – with a CRISPR/Cas9 system. Human embryos being put in a CRISPR sounds about as disturbing as it should. It would be the first time human DNA was edited in a CRISPR in the UK. The Chinese, however, have already put human embryos in a CRISPR for editing.

There are no laws against human genome editing in China; it’s just left up to local ethics boards. Though the Chinese were looking to edit a gene that causes a blood disorder, the UK team is not so ambitious. The proposal looks at the development stages of early life, though what role genetic modification will play in that goes unmentioned. It is illegal to modify human genomes for therapeutic purposes in the UK – although many feel it could lead to the end of many genetic disorders. Many countries have abstained from the human-genome modification market due to how controversial it is, and how many unknowns there are and continue to be.

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