Gene editing has been around for decades, but human DNA has been off limits—until now.
Scientists have edited genes in human embryos to repair a harmful mutation for the first time without unintended consequences. A team of international scientists published the results of their study Wednesday.
Modifying human DNA that can be passed down for generations has presented a challenge to researchers since many felt it couldn’t be done without introducing mutations elsewhere, the New York Times reports.
Scientists from Oregon Health and Science University used a powerful gene-editing technique, CRISPR-Cas9, to correct a genetic defect responsible for a heart disorder that causes seemingly healthy young people to suddenly die of heart failure.
The experiment fixed the defect in two-thirds of the dozen human embryos, none of which were used to make a baby. The researchers and their colleagues from California, China, and South Korea publish the findings in the journal Nature.
Some fear the unregulated used of genetic engineering to lead to so-called “designer babies,” a form of eugenics where parents pay for their child to have desirable traits. It could help couples protect their children from hereditary conditions that they would otherwise be exposed to.
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