OHSU Scientist 1st In US To Modify Human Genes With CRISPR

Posted July 28, 2017

Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland managed to modify numerous one-cell embryos using a controversial technique called CRISPR, according to MIT Technology Review.

None of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days, according to the report. "So far as I know this will be the first study reported in the US", says Jun Wu, a collaborator at the Salk Institute, in La Jolla, California, who played a role in the project.

Until now, three previous reports of editing human embryos were published by scientists in China.The earlier Chinese publications, although limited in scope, found "CRISPR" caused editing errors and that the desired DNA changes were taken up not by all the cells of an embryo, only some.

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Scientists in China were the first to carry out gene editing on human embryos in 2015, although with mixed results, the British journal Nature reported.

By now, most of us know what CRISPR gene editing is.

"This is the kind of research that is essential if we are to know if it's possible to safely and precisely make corrections" in embryos' DNA to fix disease-causing genes", legal scholar and bioethicist R. Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, told STAT.

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OR researchers used embryos created for the experiment with sperm donated by men carrying inherited diseases. This gene modification process is referred to as germline engineering, since a person carrying the altered genes would pass the changes on to any offspring they had, via their own eggs or sperm (germ cells). In the USA, this kind of research is much more controversial: there's even a ban on using National Institutes of Health funding for research using gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The Tech Review could not determine which disease genes researchers chose for editing.

"This is the kind of research that the report discussed", University of Wisconsin-Madison bioethicist R. Alta Charo said of the news of Oregon's work. But Mitalipov was able to "significantly" reduce mosaicism, according to MIT Technology Review. Those regulatory barriers include a ban on using National Institutes of Health funding for experiments that use genome-editing technologies in human embryos. In 2013, Mitalipov was the first to derive stem cells from human embryos created by cloning adult cells.

The need for it is clear, he added: "Our research has suggested that there are far more disease-associated mutations in the general public than was previously suspected". However, there are many countries without such legal restrictions.

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