Chinese scientists do genetic experiments with human embryos


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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.

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4 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    The needs of the many over the one?

    ::shudder::

  • pzatchok

    Well it looks like they tried to do it as ethically as possible.
    And someone had to try first.

    I am actually surprised they chose to use already genetically malformed cells for the test subjects in the first place. That would toss in some variations to the mix they couldn’t account for accurately.

    The only other viable but unused way to test a human embryo for genetic abnormalities is to spit it(make a twin) and test one while saving the other. Using this method abnormal ones could be thrown out before implantation.
    But again this leaves the ethical question of the destruction of the twin. And it doesn’t always leave a viable twin for implantation. Sometimes the physical splitting alters or even stops the further formation of the embryo.

  • jburn

    Just finished reading “Friday” by Heinlein and couldn’t help but think — So, it has begun…

  • Keith

    Heinlein has another story on the topic – “Jerry was a Man”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Was_a_Man

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