‘Genome Editing’ on Human Embryos in UK

‘Genome Editing’ on Human Embryos in UK‘Genome Editing’ on Human Embryos in UK

Genome editing techniques on human embryos are still seen as “forbidden fruit” in many countries.

Researchers have applied to Britain’s regulators to use new “genome editing” techniques on human embryos, says a statement released by the Francis Crick Institute.

Once the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) approves the application, the research project will focus on understanding the genes human embryos need to develop successfully, and any donated embryos will be used for research purposes only, reports Xinhua news agency.

Editing the genomes of human embryos for therapeutic use — for example, to eradicate a genetic disease — is illegal in Britain, but research work is possible under license from the HFEA.

The knowledge acquired from research may improve embryo development after in vitro fertilization (IVF) and might provide better clinical treatments for infertility, says the statement.

“We also propose to use new methods based on CRIPSR/Cas9 (Easy Genome Engineering) which allows very specific alterations to be made to the genome,” said led author Kathy Niakan.

“By applying more precise and efficient methods in our research we hope to require fewer embryos and be more successful than the other methods currently used,” said Kathy.

The stage of embryo development the research team plans to study also has tremendous potential for stem cell research, which will have benefits and advances in many different fields of medicine.