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Chinese Scientists Alter Genomes In Human Embryos Raising Ethical Concerns

Scientist from Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, have published a study that reveals genes in human embryos have been modified, raising various ethical questions and concerns.

The study was published in the journal Protein and Cell, and it marks the first time it is known that genetic editing has been attempted on early human embryos.

The research looked at possibility of replacing faulty genes that would otherwise lead to serious inherited diseases. However, experts are arguing whether the procedure could lead to genetic changes being passed on to future generations and have raised serious ethical, moral and legal concerns.

According to BBC, researchers say that they collected the faulty embryos, incapable of leading to live births, from discarded stores at fertility clinics.

Using a special gene editing method called CRISPR, scientist have tried to cut out and replace a gene responsible for a serious blood disorder. Unfortunately, many attempts have failed, and in some embryos, a new genetic mutations, called off-target effects, arose in unexpected places.

Researchers concluded that these off-target effects need to be investigated thoroughly before making any further attempts to take the procedure to clinic.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Dr. Yalda Jamshidi” author_title=”Geneticist at St George’s University of London”]

In theory, replacing the defective gene with a healthy one would be the ideal solution. However, altering genes in human embryos can have unpredictable effects on future generations.


These findings mean that possibly dangerous genetic mutations could be passed on to future generations. Some experts argue it could be exploited to alter genes for cosmetic reasons.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Arthur Caplan” author_title=”Head of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center”]

The world ought to have a say in whether and when genetically modifying future humans should be done. Starting with an obscure experiment with little oversight is not the way to gain anyone’s trust, much less permission. The world needs some clear guidelines and needs them fast. Without them this ought to be the last experiment we hear about.


Unrelated to this study, Color Genomics have created a $249 test, screening 19 genes connected to breast and ovarian cancer, that could save your life.

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