Skip to Content

U.K. Approves Genetic Editing of Healthy Human Embryos

A British government panel has given the green light to a team of researchers who want to use CRISPR to alter human embryos.
February 1, 2016

It’s a world first: a U.K. government panel has given the go-ahead for researchers, led by Kathy Niakan at the Francis Crick Institute in London, to edit healthy human embryos.

This isn’t the ethical morass it might at first appear to be. The researchers will use the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, but their work has nothing to do with fixing faulty genes in a developing fetus or bringing designer babies into the world.

The experiment involves growing edited embryos in a lab for no more than seven days. By the time growth is stopped, each embryo will be just a clump of between 64 and 256 cells. Were it sitting in a woman’s uterus, it wouldn’t even have implanted yet. The researchers say the point of the work is to study how embryos develop in the earliest stages after conception in the hopes of understanding more about infertility and miscarriages.

As the technology improves, it seems like it's just a matter of time before it will become realistic to use CRISPR to engineer babies, treat diseases in adults, and tweak the genes of a whole host of other animals and plants. This research isn’t that, and it should scare no one. The broader ethical and moral questions, however, are important. The good news is the conversation around them is already underway.

Source: (Nature, STAT)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.

Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.