Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Researchers Are First to Edit Human Embryos With Tiniest of Genetic Snips

September 28, 2017

Researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in China have for the first time used base editing, a technique that can tweak a single letter in a strand of DNA, to edit disease out of a human embryo. The team used the approach to fix a single mutation known to cause an inherited form of anemia. People with the disease have abnormally shaped blood cells.

The work was led by Junjiu Huang, who in 2015 headed up research showing that abnormal embryos from an IVF clinic with the same mutation could be fixed using CRISPR-Cas9 editing. But as we reported at the time, the results showed that CRISPR editing was inaccurate, and embryos often ended up with a mix of cells—some with corrected genomes, and some that still had the genetic fault.

Earlier this year, researchers used CRISPR to create the first gene-edited embryos in the U.S., and the results initially seemed promising. But closer examination of the work again suggested that the gene-editing technique still wasn't reliable enough to be used on an embryo that would be allowed to grow into a baby.

Huang's team has now moved on to a different editing technique, called simply base editing. It's exactly what it sounds like: instead of cutting out chunks of DNA, as CRISPR does, base editing alters just a single letter of DNA—in the case of the mutation that causes anemia, a faulty "G" is chemically changed to an "A." Crucially, the team's results, published in the journal Protein and Cell (paywall), minimized the kind of side effects that have plagued experiments with CRISPR. And, the researchers told the BBC, base editing could be effective on a range of disorders that are known to be caused by a single genetic error.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

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.