Scientists Reveal The First Genetically Modified Embryo

Posted: Apr 23 2015, 8:52am CDT | by , in Technology News


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Scientists reveal the first genetically modified embryo
Photo Credits: mamaetmaman

The modification allows techniques that eliminate devastating genetic disorders like Parkinson's, Down syndrome or Sickle-Cell Anemia

The knowledge of science combined with the advancement of technology has petrified the human race. The inventions coming in everyday are both scary and fascinating. Scary because they seem like a magical miracle and fascinating because we cant help but wonder in awe about the creativity and the marvelous things a human brain can do. Not so long before, genes were considered a part of humans gifted from God and it was something one could do nothing about. However, today things have taken a rather shocking turn and scientists have revealed, for the first time in history, a way to edit the genes in the human embryo.

Thanks to the researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, this has been made possible with the CRISPR/Cas9 technique which knocks a particular gene. This gene, called the HBB, is responsible for causing fatal blood disorder β-thalassaemia and through the technique, this can be expelled out from the donor embryo. Many researches have been conducted earlier on this CRISPR technique but this effort marks the first time this has been employed for a real human embryo genome.

With help from this CRISPR/Cas9, scientists have been able to make use of a complex enzyme, which is a set of "genetic scissors", which help to snip out and replace faulty gene segments with functional bits of DNA. Though this technique has been studied previously, but there is very little publication of researches done using embryonic.

Whether this is an advancement towards the good or the bad still remains to be settled. There are people belonging to different views. Those in favor of this procedure support their argument stating that this could help to eliminate devastating genetic disorders like Parkinson's, Down syndrome or Sickle-Cell Anemia before a person is even born. But those who speak out against this claim that such interference with the nature’s genetic order can cause unintended genetic consequences which might be worse than the ones we are trying to eliminate. On the opposing side of the debate, another point seems to be heavy in the air which is concerned about whether or not this is ethically and religiously wrong.

Edward Lanphier, president of Sangamo and chairman of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, recently wrote in a Nature op-ed that "We are humans, not transgenic rats. We believe there is a fundamental ethical issue in crossing the boundary to modifying the human germ line."

The technique has high probabilities of being misused in the future but that is not the reason why the Sun Yat-sen research team had to drop the study; it was because out of 86 total embryos utilized in the study, 71 survived the initial CRISPR snips, only 28 successfully spliced in the new DNA and a small fraction of those splices actually generated a functional protein.

Lead researcher Junjiu Huang told Nature, "If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100 percent. That's why we stopped. We still think it's too immature.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/32" rel="author">Ahmed Humayun</a>
Ahmed Humayun is a technology journalist bringing you the hottest tech stories of the day.




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