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What could possibly go wrong? A Chinese team of scientists have been experimenting with genetically manipulating the human embryo to see if they can prevent a genetic blood disorder.
The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications. “I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale,” says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.”
They not only found the technique unreliable in curing the genetic disease, it also produced many more unpredicted mutations.