Scientists edit human embryos for first time in US

Scientists genetically a modify human embryo for the first time

Scientists take giant step towards designer babies

"To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China", it said.

In December 2015, scientists and ethicists at an global meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington said it would be "irresponsible" to use gene editing technology in human embryos for therapeutic purposes, such as to correct genetic diseases, until safety and efficacy issues are resolved.

The team of researchers, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, created the embryos using sperm donated by men with inherited mutations that cause a disease.

Last year, Britain said some of its scientists could edit embryo genes to better understand human development. Although the report said that "many tens" of embryos were created in the experiment, they were never meant to be implanted into a womb and were only allowed to develop for a few days.

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Scientists wanted to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like thalassemia.

Critics, however, said that it could open the door to the world of "designer babies", where people choose the traits they want in a child. First reported by MIT Technology Review, the first attempt at editing the genes of human embryos in the United States has been carried out by researchers in Portland, Oregon. Their improved method allows for earlier delivery of CRISPR into cells at the same time sperm fertilize an egg.

"It is proof of principle that it can work", an anonymous scientist familiar with the project told MIT.

"They significantly reduced mosaicism", explained one researcher, who chose to remain anonymous. But it is not clear what disease or genes were edited.

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Scientists from the country were the first to use the technique on human embryos to fix a gene that causes fatal blood disorder. However, if his research passes peer review it could be a significant step for scientists in the US.

When reached by MIT Technology Review, Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which he said are pending publication.

The U.S. intelligence community a year ago called CRISPR a potential "weapon of mass destruction".

In February, the US National Academy of Sciences released a report, endorsing the use of gene editing, but only for "serious conditions under stringent oversight".

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